Issue Iss4 2008
Mondi Foods’ 50 years of expertise in the processing of red fruits has lead it to be one of the leading suppliers in the food industry
Founded in 1959, Mondi Foods is a vastly expanding company, specialising in processing red fruits supplied to food and beverage industries throughout the world. The processing of red fruits is only a small niche within the sizeable global fruit processing industry and is an activity where Mondi Foods has become an expert. The high quality red fruit ingredients are used in a variety of products such as smoothies, juices, diary products and ice creams. The company’s products are pure and natural, which means there are no additives that are used in any of the product lines. The red fruits used for these products are sourced from all over the world and produced over five main sites, employing in total nearly 400 experienced people. Mondi Food’s mission statement is to ‘become a global sourcing and processing company specialised in natural red fruit products.’
Els Van Herck, product manager and Johan Page, general manager represent the Mondi Foods team and work continuously to make this aim a reality. Johan outlines the company’s main activities: “Our core business is the processing of red fruit into three major production lines: fruit purees single strength and concentrated, Individual Quick Frozen fruit (IQF) and juice concentrates. Originally we started as a trading company in 1959 and we have developed into an experienced red fruit processor over the years. We started with production in Belgium in 1969. Since then we have put production sites in place in Poland and Serbia because these are the most important red fruit growing areas within Europe.
“To keep up with the pace of the industry, there are regular investments injected into the different productions sites. An example is the new cold store installed in Belgium in 2003, providing Mondi Foods with a frozen storage capacity of 9500 tonnes, while another example is the acquisition of a juice concentrate factory in 2007. These ongoing investments enable us to stay focused on the growth of our business. Currently we are making a turnover of over 65 million euros and selling approximately 37,000 tonnes of fruit products a year.”
He adds: “Within the whole organisation, we focus on our core business: processing red fruits. We do also handle some other fruits like apple and kiwi for geographical reasons – with our production sites in Poland we are close to apple growing areas. Our production site in Belgium is close to the port where kiwis from New Zealand are coming in. This gives Mondi Foods the opportunity to work with some additional fruits but our main focus is the red fruits. About 75 per cent of our raw material is sourced in Poland and Serbia, where historically red fruits are grown. To diversify and secure our sourcing, we also look at other areas like Spain for strawberries, where we work via local partnerships. Apart from that, Chile is also an interesting country for Mondi Foods since we are able to source fresh raw material during our winter months. Global sourcing results in selective sourcing in Northern and Southern hemisphere with a clear focus on raw material quality.
What is also specific to the Mondi Foods business is our market and customer approach. We have a diversified customer portfolio: from multinationals to more local oriented companies within different industries. Always focused on their specific product application and needs, we work closely with various clients towards the best fitting product, either within our standard product range or providing them with a customised fruit product. The account manager assures that the necessary people within Mondi foods are involved in customer projects.”
Mondi Foods’ has opted for a clear market positioning which has a positive impact on how the company is perceived in the market: a red fruit specialist, focusing on the fruit itself without using additives. This positioning results in the delivery of products that maintain the fruit’s typical characteristics – colour, taste and texture. This is also reflected in further product development projects as Els highlights: “We recently extended our concentrated puree line with a new product. Re-engineering of the production process resulted in a 28 brix concentrated puree in addition to our 22 brix product.
“Without any enzymatic or other chemical treatment, we are able to go to a higher brix level while maintaining the natural characteristics of the basic fruit in terms of colour, taste and aroma. With this new product line we will be able to compete better in ‘longer distance markets’ like the US. The 28 brix product delivers more fruit for less volume, reducing logistic costs significantly but still delivering the same top quality that Mondi Foods is known for. We already have a good share in the smoothie business and we are working towards a larger share in the dairy and ice cream sector. Specifically for these industries we believe in the strength of our new 28 brix product. We are already receiving some feedback from our customers on this product and overall it looks really positive.“
With expertise in such a niche product like red fruits and the fact that raw materials are predominantly sourced from small farmers, the company faces challenges within the current climate. Johan explains these and outlines how Mondi Foods hopes to overcome them: “The most important challenge today comes from the fact that red fruits are a niche product, however they are an attractive food ingredient delivering health benefits which have become increasingly important for an average consumer. Food companies can work with these types of ingredients to support their marketing claims, but it stays a fragile ingredient from a sourcing point of view due to seasonal fluctuations which impact the volume and the quality of raw material available. As a result, the raw material price has greatly increased over the last three years. This has become a constraint for further product development within the food and beverage industry. In addition, our customers look at cost control and we’ve noted that they have started to re-engineer their products to cope with the increased raw material cost – on top the current economic crisis. It is a case of encouraging customers to believe in our top quality product, which we can only achieve by demonstrating the excellence we offer. Like every other company, it is about finding the right balance between service, quality level and the price challenges we are facing.
“We offer a well performing fruit ingredient that you are able to find in top brands all over the world. And we continuously work towards a more efficient supply chain sourcing high quality raw material from all over the world. Despite the economic climate we believe that we will continue specialising in interesting products – especially in concentrated purees – and maintain being a competitive player on the market,” Johan concludes.