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CH ROBINSON : Weather makes for a challenging year supplying tropical fruit

Adverse weather in Mexico made for a challenging year for tropical fruit providers who deal in tropical fruit. Limes and mango supplies were hit especially hard, but for large suppliers, who have a large logistics network, the problems with sourcing tropical fruit from Mexico were handled sufficiently.

“Weather is always an unpredictable factor, and in the case of tropicals, this year's crops were influenced by weather events that took place up to six months prior to harvest,” explained Jose Rossignoli of Robinson Fresh.

 “A combination of tropical storms that occurred last September and a late cold front in December affected lime crop’s bloom and young fruit sets, resulting in one of the worst lime supply crises of the industry since Mexico became the primary supplier to the North American marketplace.” That meant that limes were hard to come by and often not in preferred sizes. 

Additionally, what was available often commanded some of the highest prices seen for limes. 

Though the situation was dire enough to grab the attention of high profile publications, like the New York Times and USA Today, Robinson Fresh was able to weather the tough spot the industry found itself in by leveraging their large logistics network.

Robinson Fresh encompasses several brands under the aegis of C.H. Robinson.

 It joins the fresh portion of C.H. Robinson, FoodSource, Rosemont Farms and Timco Worldwide under one global brand. 

That far-reaching network helped Robinson Fresh to continue supplying limes, even when some retailers had none.

“As prices reached historical levels, retailers had to move non-preferred sizes and in some cases move limes out of stores for a short period,”
noted Rossignoli. 

“Throughout the industry, a high level of collaboration and communication between parties was imperative to overcome this challenging time in the marketplace.” That was also the case, though to a lesser degree, with supplies of mangos out of Mexico this year.

 A cold front lasting from December of last year through April of this year affected yields coming out of Mexico.

“Despite inclement weather conditions and challenging supply volumes this year, Robinson Fresh has seen the demand for tropical fruit remains steady illustrating consumer loyalty to the category as well as increased familiarity,”
said Rossignoli. 

They complement their supplies of tropical fruit from Mexico with fruit from Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Brazil. 

They work closely with growers in those countries to improve yields and efficiency along the supply chain.


“Robinson Fresh also provides plan and plant supply programs for more consistent supply and pricing to customers and growers, and participates in the research and investment of proprietary seeds and varieties for future products and improved operations,” said Rossignoli. 

They use what's grown by their network of growers and sell it through licensing agreements under the Tropicana and Green Giant brands or under their proprietary Happy Chameleon brand.

“The Happy Chameleon brand is targeted towards all consumers, especially those who search for fun and excitement in their grocery shopping experience,”
explained Rossignoli.

 “The brand reinforces the idea that tropical fruits including pineapples, mangos, and limes are exciting and approachable much like the brand’s logo, a chameleon, whose colours change like the produce production seasons.”

In the future, Rossignoli sees the brand expanding into markets where consumption of tropical fruit is low, so that consumers can get access to fruit that Robinson can acquire on a year-round basis.

“The tropical category is growing faster than any other fruit category, but there is substantial variation in consumption of many of the contributing items by region,”
said Rossignoli.

 “This presents a huge opportunity and is the main reason we expect to see continued growth. Robinson Fresh will continue to target areas in which tropical consumption is light and position the fruit in an attention-grabbing manner, as these items are not yet staples.”

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Publication date: 8/26/2014

Author: Carlos Nunez / Sander Bruins Slot

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