The Spanish group aims to double the production area of both raspberries and blueberries.
Royal SAT, the Seville-based company specialising in the production and marketing of stone fruits and berries, is one of the largest European players in the fresh fruit market. Based in San José de la Rinconada, the group is betting its future growth on the sector of berries, particularly in the cultivation of blueberries and raspberries, in which it has its own varieties, thanks to genetic research.
Agricultural innovation through collaboration with leading agro-food research universities such as Cornell and Florida, both in the United States, has been a constant since Royal's inception in the early 1970s and has led to the commercialization of superior products in terms of taste, aroma and sugar levels.
So, while the company's turnover, which exceeds 100 million euros, has been supported 50% by stone fruits (peach, nectarine, apricot, paraguayo and pluot) and another 50% by red fruits (blueberry, strawberry, raspberry and blackberry), in the last year "berries have already accounted for 70% of the turnover", says the founder and president of the company, José Gandía (photo).
DEMAND IS GROWING
The reason is that "the demand for stone fruit has been more stable while the demand for red fruit continues to grow, as consumers are increasingly interested in obtaining products of the highest quality and with health benefits", especially in the case of raspberries, because "since October the market is very dynamic and this fruit is usually consumed until the month of June".
Royal already operates with raspberries, of which it produces around 1,000 tonnes in Huelva, Portugal and Morocco.
The blueberry forte season starts in January and the company harvests around 10,000 tonnes, grown mainly in Morocco.
80% of its business is abroad, with a strong penetration in Europe, where the raspberry varieties 'Glamour' and blueberry 'Blue Aroma' are very popular in countries such as France, Holland and Norway. The Nordic countries are strategic for the company as they are "very sensitive to the quality, taste and aromas of our varieties".
However, Gandía points to the growth in consumption that soft fruits are experiencing nationally, "thanks to the impetus of chains like Mercadona", to which Royal supplies blueberries. "Mercadona represents 36% of the fresh fruit sold in Spain, although in the case of blueberries the percentage rises to 60% and 50% in the case of raspberries, " Gandía points out.
In order to meet this growing national and international demand, Royal wants to double the area under raspberry and blueberries "in the next four years at the most" by investing in land in Huelva and Portugal. Thus, according to the president of the business group, the idea is "to go from 600 to 1,200 hectares at blueberries and from 100 to 200 hectares in the case of raspberries", in the latter case, "including the alliance of cooperatives and small producers in Huelva and Portugal with whom we want to work".
The group expects to end 2019 with 10% year-on-year revenue growth, driven by 20% growth at berries.