Prune industry working to grow consumption

Prune industry working to grow consumption

The Chilean prune industry is working to change global consumer attitudes towards prune products in a bid to foster growing demand.

"Even though prunes have been consumed for centuries, it is today finding better uses. Prunes used to be a product that was appreciated for digestive problems. Today, a prune is starting to be considered just a healthy product. It can be consumed by sportsmen, by children, it is not just grandmothers eating prunes any more. The demand is growing, but there is a lot of work to be done," Prunes from Chile president Pedro Pablo Díaz told just-food today (16 November).

Chile is the world's largest prune exporter, followed by the US, France and Argentina. The Chilean prune industry organisation, Prunes from Chile, is working along side international peers through the International Prune Association to increase marketing of prunes and prune products in various markets around the world.

According to Díaz the ongoing evolution of consumer attitudes is the consequence of these efforts to increase marketing to thee end user.

"We are working towards that as an association. Our representation is about 85% of the volume of exports from Chile. Plus we are members of IPA - the International Prune Association... we have been doing television campaigns, ads in magazines... There are big brands in this industry, such as Mariani, Sunsweet, or Prunesco from Chile, they are locomotives pulling this train," Díaz suggested.

The Chilean industry's drive to increase consumer marketing has been supported by financial incentives from the Chilean government. "We have been doubling funds for marketing every year for past three years. The government has been very supportive of this: every penny we put in they have matched, so the government has doubled our efforts,"  Díaz explained.

In recent years, the Chilean prune industry has done much to "open up" European markets and Prunes from Chile are now represented in various retailers including Tesco, Aldi, Lidl and Marks and Spencer. As the sector looks to build on this growth, Díaz said it is turning its attention to developing its presence in new markets, such as China and Russia.

"China and Russia are markets that are evolving. The central European markets are not only hit by the crisis - they have been very steady for decades. It is a market that is mature, it is there, we work it, but it doesn't grow."

The Chilean prune industry differentiates its offering through a focus on high quality products, Díaz claimed. "Chile has the best availability technologies for processing, we go the extra mile in preparing products for retail packaging... We are absolutely competitive. It would maybe be too much to say that we have the best prune in the world - we do, maybe not alone, but we do - we have an excellent quality product."

The sector is also looking to grow its distribution presence. "We go to retail, we go to wholesaler, we go to bakery... the confectionery business in Russia is very big selling prunes covered with chocolate. In Eastern European countriees they make jams and marmalades. I would say there is a balance today.Maybe 50-50 going into supermarkets and sold in bulk for various applications," Díaz suggested.

Chilean prune makers have also set their sights on increasing their share of value-added sales, with an increasing amount of prunes being used to make finished products that can then be exported.

"We have strong belief that added value coming out from out country is the way of the future. We are working to develop better value added products for the world."

According to Díaz, Chilean prune makers have been researching improvements to prune shape, looking at the prospects for stuffing prunes with various fillings and coating prunes.