(Feb. 15) BERLIN — For the first time, Fruit Logistica dedicated a portion of the show floor to the fresh-cut segment.

Co-sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, which handled the educational component of the event, FreshConnex had solid representation by Europe’s major fresh-cut processors and global equipment and packaging suppliers. Admission to FreshConnex, Feb. 7-9, was included for all Fruit Logistica attendees.

The fresh-cut segment is still growing in Europe, but much of the product is packaged under retailers’ private labels, said Tom Stenzel, president of United Fresh.

An exception is Florette, a French firm with six processing plants around Europe. Its Florette brand is one of the few known consumer brands of salad packs.

In the fruit sector, Chiquita continues with its fresh-cut fruit cups that are sold in convenience stores.

Consumers can expect to see more branding, however, in the future, said John Toner, director of convention sales and services for United Fresh.

“I’m seeing more and more interest in branding in the marketplace,” Toner said. “Four years ago, the fresh-cut companies were doing very little branding.”

As a further example, Hamburg-based Fresh Factory, previously solely a private label processor, has added a branded line of cut fruits, said Klaus Klische, co-owner.

The company has exclusive fresh-cut fruit rights to the Valensina brand, a popular German orange juice brand. Fresh Factory is starting out with three items: fruit mix, sweet pineapple and melons. Klische said he expects the items to do well at gas stations, convenience stores and, eventually, supermarkets.

The supermarket segment remains a difficult sell for fresh-cut in Germany because heavy price discounts by competing chains leaves little profit margins, he said.

One other notable trend, Toner said, is that with the euro as the continent’s common currency, more companies are adding processing and distribution facilities in other EU countries, he said.

Before Fruit Logistica, Stenzel said, more than 200 attended the Feb. 6 FreshConnex Congress, an educational and networking event.

United Fresh pleased with FreshConex
James Boyd, owner of Finger Limeing Good Pty. Ltd., Northern Rivers, Australia, cuts finger limes for Fruit Logistica attendees to taste. Spherical cells spill out when the skin is cut. Boyd says phytosanitary rules prohibit the native Australian fruit to be shipped fresh to the U.S., but he hopes to establish a market for the pulp, which can be used in cocktails and desserts and with seafood.