US dried fruit firm Mariani Packing Co. plans to grow its presence in Europe by first expanding in the industrial sector before launching its retail brand.

According to Andy Humphries, director of Mariani Europe, the company is developing its European industrial business – selling dried fruit to confectionery, cereal, bakery and dairy customers.

The company has opened a 55,000 pallet warehouse in Rotterdam in partnership with Vat Logistics. Humphries explained it was a significant step as it allows the group to supply industrial customers will smaller quantities of a wider product range.

Previously, the firm could only offer shipment containers from the US.

“Having stock in Rotterdam allows us to smaller products but with a range of products,” Humphries said. “We are now open to anybody, from the likes of Kellogg or Nestle down to the high street baker.”

The move is expected to significantly grow Mariani’s European footprint. In the four weeks since the facility opened, Humphries said the group has seen a strong uptick in sales.

Mariani has taken a distinct approach to growing its business in Europe. The US firm’s largest markets are North America and Asia, where its focus is on developing its retailer brands. However, the competitive nature of European retail markets means that Mariani has opted to initially focus its attention on industrial customers, Humphries said.

“In retail, you have to have a brand that means something to consumers,” Humphries tells just-food. “European retail is also an extremely competitive space – you have to have deep pockets to fund promotions.”

However, the Humphries does anticipate growing the group’s retail brand in Europe and suggests that once the industrial business is established – in three to five years – the group will turn its attention to retail.