Global Trade in Fresh Produce – Challenges and Trends.
The global fresh produce market has been growing steadily. In 2016, market research provider Euromonitor International reported that the global demand for fresh food increased by nearly 3% over global demand in 2015. This was in line with Compound Annual Growth Rate of 3% achieved over the 2011-2016 review period.

The growth of this market is also supported by a separate report from, which forecasts that the global fresh produce market will grow at a CAGR of 3.01% from 2017 to 2021.

Various factors account for the massive growth of the fresh produce market. These include the increasing middle-class population, rise in disposable income, rapid urbanization in many key fresh produce importing countries, shifting consumer lifestyle preferences and (last but not least least) the significant advancement in logistics, storage, and cold-chain facilities.

However, the growth of this rapidly expanding market is also constrained by several challenges such as volatility in prices, disease outbreaks in farms, climate change, and quality control issues. Read on as we detail the key challenges and trends that are shaping the global fresh produce market.

Growing Opportunity in Organic Produce

One of the most noticeable trends in the fresh produce trade is the increased demand for organic produce. These are a type of fresh item that are produced by methods that comply with the standards of organic farming and are often marketed as pesticide and additive free.

While this category was once classified as a specialty item only available in selected outlets, it’s distribution channel these days has widened and it has now become a staple in many grocery shops and supermarkets around the world.
According to a report from TechSci Research, the global organic food market stood at US$110.25 billion in 2016, a figure that is expected to reach US$262.85 billion by 2022.

While the demand for organic produce is strongest in US and Europe, strong competition in these areas means they need to venture elsewhere to establish their market. For European organic fresh produce exporters, this can mean exploring opportunities in the densely-populated Asia-Pacific Market which have strong GDP growth rates.

Superfood Driving the Growth of Global Fruit Trade

Another growing trend in the fresh produce trade are superfoods. According to Live Science, superfoods – such as spinach, beans, sweet potatoes, salmon, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and berries – are foods that are nutritionally dense and have an extra-large dose of vitamins and minerals which most health-conscious people seek these days.

Superfoods have gained a popularity as food trends shift rapidly over social media for the past 7 years. In fact, a London-based market research company, Mintelís, revealed that between 2011 and 2015, the number of new food and drink products carrying the label “superfood” recorded a phenomenal growth of 202% worldwide.

One example of a superfood that any European fresh produce exporter cannot afford to ignore is the avocado. In 2006, the top ten exporting countries only exported 500 thousand tonnes of avocados. Fast forward to 2016 – these countries exported more than 1,750 thousand tonnes of avocados.

This opens a significant growth opportunity for European exporters as the popularity of superfoods in the global market increases, yet the production is getting slower. In fact, according to the latest World Fruit Map report from Rabobank, the trade in avocados has grown by more 12% per year globally but its production, with growth of only 5% a year, is struggling to keep up.

Rise of China’s Fresh Fruit Imports

China, aside from being the world’s top fresh fruit producer, has also been leading the world in per capita fresh produce consumption, with 56% of their average diet in weight consisting of fruit, vegetables, and starchy roots in 2011. This means that Chinese people eat almost twice as many grams of fresh produce per day than the average American.

This trend is expected to increase from 2018 onwards as China’s demand for fresh fruit steadily grows. In the same report from Rabobank, it was shown that China’s demand for fresh and processed fruits has significantly increased during the 2006-2016 period. In 2006, the country’s fresh fruit only amounted to less than US$ 2,000 million. In 2016, it increased to more than US$ 8,000 million – showing an increase of more than 300%.

This poses a significant growth opportunity for other fresh fruit-producing countries in Europe such as Spain, The Netherlands, Italy, and Belgium. Some of China’s top fresh fruit items imported in 2016 as per total fresh fruit import volume include bananas (25.17%), dragon Fruit (14.94%), longan (10.14%), and durian (8.30%).

Online Grocery Shopping Driving Growth in Fresh Produce Trade

Internet shopping and innovative concepts such as meal kits are the key trends changing the way consumers get their stock of fresh produce. While traditional retail channels such as supermarkets, supercenters, and discount stores remain the dominant outlets for consumers, there has been a shift towards online grocery shopping for fresh produce.

According to market research firm Packaged Facts, the use of the internet as a means to procure fresh produce can be largely attributed to Millennials and young families who have very busy schedules and often do not have time to plan and shop for healthy meals. They tend to buy from grocery stores that offer online ordering to ensure they get their stockpile of fresh fruits and vegetables with relative ease and convenience.

This is supported by a Nielsen report, which also states that high-quality produce is the most important factor for today’s shopper when it comes to fulfilling their grocery needs. 67% of all shoppers also say they actively search for products with nourishing ingredients. These preferences, combined with online shopping, are the reason why fresh produce retailers should incorporate e-commerce technology into their operations.


Decreasing Arable Land, Climate Change, and Changing Consumption Needs

Globally, the fresh produce industry is still facing the same problem regarding diminishing arable land and natural resources. However, with climate change getting worse, we can only expect these issues to also worsen.

Another challenge in the industry is the increasing number of people expecting fresh food that is nutritious and can be purchased easily – all without compromising on cost and quality.

The increasing urban population and changing consumer needs are driving the fresh produce industry not only to increase their production but also make their products more accessible to the market. In 2050, it is forecast that the world’s total population will increase by 2 billion to over 9 billion, most of whom will carry on the healthy living lifestyle that Millennials and Gen Y are pursuing.

To address these challenges, fresh produce exports should be more efficient. There may be a need to invest in new technology such as IoT tools to make their supply chain operations more streamlined and cost-effective.

Aside from these trends and challenges, there are other opportunities that fresh produce companies and exporters should anticipate. In order to maximize the growth potential of this market, fresh produce exporters must have an efficient and productive logistics operations to ensure that their supply chain operations can match the growing market demand for fresh produce.

Please contact Patrick if your are exploring the idea of expanding your business  +353 1 415 1252

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