Vitafoods, in addition to consolidating itself as the main player in the segment in Chile, plans to invest in Peru and continue expanding in the United States, challenges that are now keeping the executives at Vitafoods with the foot on the gas; the processor of frozen products that was born from the merger in this segment between Hortifrut, a world leader in the production and marketing of fresh berries, and Alifrut, a Duncan Fox subsidiary and the largest processor and exporter of frozen fruits and vegetables in the country, recognized for their Minuto Verde brand, has relevant plans for the future.
The conversations between the two lasted more than a year with the aim of merging their operations in equal parts, as well as the corresponding fixed assets to the new company, to promote international development and growth. On Friday, July31, they sealed the agreement, transferring five frozen production plants, located in Molina, Colbún, Curicó, Parral and Chillán, to the new company, in addition to incorporating Hortifrut´s commercial platform in the U.S. in such a way that the company starts from day one with an arm in this country.
Three days after the merger was finalized, the upper plant of Vitafoods was already working on its business plan which includes a commercialization of 35 million kilos in volume of frozen fruits and estimated sales of over US$100 million (FOB) in 2021.
“We hope to have a very strong presence in North America, but also in other markets where we are very strong: in Asia (China, Japan, Korea), Oceania (Australia and New Zealand). We also show interesting numbers in Europe, being more complicated there because it has a large local production,” said the general manager of Vitafoods, Gonzalo Bachelet.
“If Alifrut was already the main exporter, with the union with Hortifrut we are going to consolidate ourselves as the largest exporters of frozen fruits in Chile.”
The long-term business plan, meanwhile, also considers making investments in Peru to expand the productive line of the new company, since several frozen products are produced in Peru that Chile doesn’t produce, such as mango and avocado.
“We as Vitafoods are going to make between 20% and 25% of Chile’s total exports in the frozen food industry, and we are going to become the largest exporters, specifically, of frozen berries from Chile,” Bachelet said.
Although several sectors of the economy have been affected by the pandemic, the frozen food industry has managed to overcome some obstacles and is beginning to regain its stability. ‘This year he is planning for Chile to export some US$ 480 million in frozen fruits, which is a relatively important figure. Chile’s strength in the frozen food industry has focused so far on berries, and this year we are experiencing great growth in raspberries, strawberries and blackberries, while some of the products are regaining the growth that had been lost.’
In total, ‘this year there is a growth of around 15% in exports of frozen foods, in a very difficult year for the world,’ explained the manager of Vitafoods, adding that, between the sum of Hortifrut and Alifrut, “We are growing around 20% over last year.”
The growth at the industry level would be explained precisely by Covid-19 as the trend for food security intensified due to the pandemic.
In fact, he says that the sale of foodservice in this category was almost completely transferred to retail, with growth of over 40% in the hardest months of the coronavirus in the U.S.
Bachelet anticipates that this trend for the preference of frozen products may be maintained over time, providing greater added value to the industry.