The commitment to boost the consumption of cranberries in Latin America – Simfruit

Source: Cran Chile.

  • In an interview with Frutas de Chile, Fernando Casari, CEO of the company, detailed the keys to the firm’s success, his evaluation of the 2023 campaign and the challenges facing the sector.

Red in color, small and acidic in flavor. These are some of the characteristics that distinguish the cranberry from other fruits and which its daily consumption helps with good in general, highlighting the prevention of urinary and digestive diseases. Benefits that have been promoted by Cran Chile, the largest cranberry producer in the world, and that has transformed this superfruit into the favorite of the European and Asian markets.

In an interview with Frutas de Chile, Fernando Casari, CEO of Cran Chile, stated that they are looking to boost their consumption in Latin America, especially in Brazil. “Our main market is Europe, with which we have a tariff advantage over the US. Then comes Asia where we export to China and Korea. Brazil is an important market and one in which we are working hard. This country has a long history of consuming Chilean raisins, walnuts, plums and almonds. Therefore, we are using the route that Chilean exporters have well developed to be able to reach Brazil with the dehydrated format.”

This market began to work after the pandemic. “The potential is gigantic, but we are just getting started. Therefore, the first big challenge in Brazil is for people to identify the cranberry and recognize it as a fruit that is very good for health. To boost consumption we are working as influencers and chefs. “We have developed a marketing strategy to make the fruit known and we are strategically looking for the right distributors so that the product is accessible to people,” he indicated.

Fernando Casari, CEO of Cran Chile.

The keys to success

Cran Chile has 700 hectares located in 7 locations near Valdivia, Los Ríos Region and produces an annual harvest of close to 25,000 tons. A story that began in 1991 with the American entrepreneur Warren Simmons who had a clear idea: grow cranberries in southern Chile. In that period, Simmons brought 3 varieties of this fruit in vitro from the US and which found the key conditions to develop in the south of our country.

Casari, who joined the company in 2019 to promote international marketing, explained that the firm produces about 7.7% of the world’s cranberries. “Our founder Simmons was very visionary and decided to bring a fruit that is grown naturally in the US and southern Canada to Chile, where the cranberry did not exist,” he added.

The company faced a path that was often not easy. Fernando Casari explained that at first it was difficult for them because the south has similar characteristics to the West Coast of the United States, but they are not the same. Therefore, these differences caused adaptations to be made. “For example, the soil that for this fruit has to be light, the soil in southern Chile was very hard. Therefore, work had to be done putting sand for the fruit to grow and that took more time and investment. The cranberry found a wonderful place to grow in these latitudes and the yields we have are higher than the average in the US. Therefore, that made the project successful and continued construction until we reached the hectares we have today,” he highlighted.

Cran Chile has 700 hectares located in 7 locations near Valdivia, Los Ríos Region and produces an annual harvest of close to 25,000 tons.

Until 2007, the company only had the concentrated cranberry juice format, “We had a single product that we exported mainly to the United States. Since 2010 we started with dehydrated fruit. Together with ProChile for 4 years we visited many countries and participated in fairs in France, Germany, Korea, China, Dubai and more, to publicize that dehydrated cranberries were produced in Chile,” said Casari.

In 2013, Cran Chile completed a transaction with the North American cooperative Ocean Spray, to whom it sold its industrial assets, maintaining ownership of the fields and becoming a farmer – owner of the same. The management of the fields in Chile is completely local, delivering the fresh fruit to the Ocean Spray plant, who are responsible for its processing. Since 2014, Cran Chile is the exclusive representative for the marketing of Ocean Spray Ingredients products in South America.

Regarding what has changed since they joined Ocean Spray, Casari indicated that they are currently focused only on the agricultural area. “That is, we only dedicate ourselves to growing the cranberry, which we then deliver to the Ocean Spray processing plant. 75% of the product is destined between Asia and Europe and the other 25% is destined for South America. Part of the agreement is that we help them sell in South America in countries like Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru,” he indicated.

Dehydrated Cranberries are one of Cran Chile’s main products.

For Casari, from a business point of view, making the decision was the right one since they were left with the best of both worlds. “We continue to manage the agricultural part of the business, super efficiently and we also have the benefits of being members of this cooperative that has a super powerful brand: Ocean Spray is a very strong brand in the US that sells almost 80% in retail. of their products. Therefore, we receive as part of the payment for our fruit the dividends that the cooperative generates by selling in retail.

2023 and 2024 seasons: Production is maintained

The cranberry harvest begins in mid-March and ends at the end of May. “We are just beginning the process with the new fruit, which is frozen for at least a month in the industrial plant and then removed from the chambers to go through the dehydrating process throughout the year, as the fresh product is produced and delivered. We are in the 2024 harvest, all the 2023 fruit has already been sold. Last year we had a good season since 25 million pounds of dehydrated products and about 400,000 gallons of focused juice were exported,” commented Casari.

In 2023, the company exported 25 million pounds of dehydrated products and about 400,000 gallons of focused juice.

The company has had a harvest of close to 25,000 tons of fruit for 5 years. Casari explained that they carry out important agronomic control over the crop, managing pruning, fertilization, irrigation and pollination. “It is essential that Mother Nature is on our side and fortunately in the last 5 years we have had the support of the weather so that things go well. When we started this year’s harvest we projected that it would be 20% less than last year because we had a difficult season in 2023 since it rained in November when we were in pollination and it was cold until the end of November. In December we had strong hail in 2 of the 7 properties. The entire season we were 3 weeks behind, just like our neighbors who harvest blueberries, cherry trees and wheat. Therefore, we projected that we would be affected and now that we start harvesting the fruit is in good condition. The cranberry is a noble plant that appreciates how we treat it,” he highlighted.

According to the executive: “In the 2024 harvest we are 50% complete and the performance is very similar to the previous season. Although we had projected that it would be 20% less, it is showing that we are following similar trend numbers to last year, therefore, the volumes will be similar.”

The daily consumption of this fruit helps in the prevention of urinary and digestive diseases.

Strategies to boost consumption and challenges

Sustainability is one of the key strategies to promote the consumption of this fruit. Casari said: “To strengthen this area and make known what we do in terms of sustainability, we recently published our first report. For 15 years we have had certified agricultural practices, Globa GAP, and we continue working every year on these certifications because the world asks us to take care of resources. We are founding members of the water corporation. “We are involved in everything that has to do with the care of water, which is a fundamental resource for cultivation.”

Regarding challenges for this year, the CEO of Cran Chile pointed out that costs are rising a lot. “The cost of oil has increased and it has had a strong impact on us. The combination of increased consumption due to increased frost controls and increased price is a double blow. The price of fertilizers and agrochemicals also increased greatly during the pandemic and never went back. The inflationary pressure of those years is still being felt. The only way to stay competitive in this environment is to gain operational efficiency. “That is what we are working on,” he concluded.

Sustainability is one of Cran Chile’s key strategies to promote the consumption of this fruit.

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