Soft fruit market challenges – key takeaways from Friut Logisitca 2024

Soft fruit market challenges – key takeaways from Friut Logisitca 2024

Without a doubt, Fruit Logistica is one of the most important agricultural events in this part of Europe. The event brings together the biggest players in the fruit and vegetable market, sets the direction of development, and addresses the challenges of the growers and packing companies. Using the occasion of meeting people from different countries and segments, we ask them a few questions regarding trends and challenges that the soft fruit market will face in the upcoming months.


Soft fruit market challenges – labour costs and staff shortages

During Fruit Logisitca 2024 we interviewed some guests visiting our stand. We spoke to the representatives of big companies working all year long, as well as small entrepreneurs who operate during the season only. Thanks to that, we received experiences from a few European countries, mapping different angles and segments of the fruit market. Analysing their answers, we can easily point out that labour costs are the biggest challenge in the soft fruit market and the agriculture sector nowadays. The labour costs increase: the minimal wages go up year by year, especially in Western Europe, and it is really hard to hire solid employees for seasonal occupations. The war in Ukraine made it even more difficult. The labour market evolves and nowadays even young people seek job stability and good salaries. The same with emigrants. As a consequence, the growers and packing companies struggle to find responsible staff eager to take up hard duties at the packing house or plantation.

Stakeholders-related soft fruit market challenges

Apart from risks linked to labour force, our visitors pointed out some other aspects. Firstly, the fruit sector representatives mention the rise of energy costs and other fixed costs that affect their business models and cut margins. However, soft fruit market challenges are not constrained only by financial reasons. British companies complain about trade obstructions caused by Brexit, while German ones notice a rising number of restrictions coming from the government site. The new requirements regard key aspects of growing fruits, such as the usage of pesticides or some other requisites regarding bio-production.

Another thing that needs to be interpreted as a challenge for soft fruit market participants is the expectations of supermarkets. The international sale chains acquire a large volume of soft fruit, and other types of fruits and vegetables, which makes them a powerful stakeholder in the agricultural sector. The supermarkets set high standards regarding the products they want to offer to their customers. That is why soft fruit producers and packing companies need to adapt to specific quality requirements, mainly in terms of colour, size, and softness of the fruits they provide. The blueberry is a great example of this trend.

Soft fruit market challenges and trends 2024

Environmental issues

The Fruit Logistica participants added some more challenges they need to manage in the upcoming months and years. Many people indicated climate crisis as the biggest threat to the future. The global changes already caused some weather alternates in Europe. Some of them are manageable, e.g. a drought period needs an efficient irrigation system, and some are out of control, such as severe weather events. On a global scale, some countries lose their farming areas because of climate permutations. This results in a lower supply and price rise, as the demand for some most-wanted fruits, such as blueberry, is high and still growing.

Discussing eco challenges, we cannot miss the fact that more and more supermarkets pay close attention to the packaging of the fruits and vegetables they sell. The aware consumers want to purchase products in eco-friendly boxes, containing less plastic or made out of recyclable materials. This trend hits the packing companies directly. To meet the expectations of the supermarket, fruit sectors have to adopt less-waste packages and provide different volumes of boxes, to allow the consumers to make a convenient choice during shopping.


Soft fruit market trends

Difficulties related to the soft fruit market are real problems that need to be addressed to run a successful farm or packing company. However, there is a bright side of the business, too. All the interviewed persons underlined the fact the demand for soft fruits is stable, therfore it is expected to rise in the upcoming years, led by blueberries. The consumers (and supermarkets) want to buy fruits all year long, thus the suppliers need to import products outside of Europe, e.g. from South America or North Africa. Consumers in Europe look for blueberries not only during the season but also treat them as convenient, all-purpose snacks. What is more, the group of people who are aware of the health benefits of blueberries and other soft fruit is rising. Another thing is clients reach for bigger blueberry packages (e.g. up to 1 kilo) than ever before.

Machines and automation pave the way

Our interviewees agreed that the automation of harvesting and processing is a must when you consider further steps for soft fruit producers. Professional machinery can handle the job, keeping a higher level of efficiency, precision, safety, and traceability than manual workers. That is why more and more growers and packing companies have already moved that way. The other needs to follow them to keep their market shares.

The automated packing line for fruits and vegetables allows the investor to reduce the number of staff needed. The integrated machines can work seamlessly with fewer operational workers than traditional lines, thus the automated packing house can save a lot of money you spend on staff each season. Moreover, well-integrated lines tend to commit fewer errors than employees (e.g. in terms of weighting fruits and vegetables) and they are not susceptible to sicknesses, injuries, and or some other unpredicted incidents that might occur when you hire people. Obviously, the line comprised of conveyors, feed system, labeller, automatic check weigher, weigh & fill machine, traysealer or some other equipment cannot operate without human control. Even the best machines for soft fruit processing need to be supervised by trained staff, but the number of required workforces is measurably reduced.


Use Milbor solutions to respond to the soft fruit market challenges

At Milbor we clearly understand the importance of automation in the sector, and we know that smart investments in packing and sorting machinery will pay off big. Having blueberry expertise of growers, 10 years of experience in the field of automation, and +200 successful projects delivered in Europe and North Africa, Milbor can help you to make the best decisions regarding the investment in machines and software suitable to your needs and plans of development. To provide our customers with the whole solution rather than just a machine, we collaborate with world-class producers, such as A&B, GP Graders, or Packaging Automation, pairing their equipment with our own hardware and software. Thanks to that, the client receives a tailor-made and well-integrated line that will elevate the production volumes, increase the margins, and measurably cut costs.

We are aware that switching your business from manual to automatic mode might raise some questions and doubts. That is why we want to invite you to your business needs diagnosis, which is free of charge. By contacting our specialist, you can easily find out whether Milbor solutions fit your business strategy, present demands, and future plans. Fill out the contact form below and get ready to face the most significant soft fruit market challenges thanks to technology.


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