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Fruit Logistica 2023: What we learnt

about 1 year ago by Andrew Fitzmaurice

Another Fruit Logistica in the bag. How was it?

As ever, there is always a chance that like Bill Murray on the 2nd of February, Fruit Logistica feels eerily familiar. Like you’ve done it all before. Put your little hand in mine. There ain’t no hill or mountain we can't climb.

Familiarity can breed contempt but not if you view it through the lens of continuous improvement. Each year gets better, easier, and more productive to be honest. Each year we make the trip more useful. We know more people and our efficiency gets refined.

With a larger than-ever MorePeople team, we could justify sending more manpower. Four of us from the Stamford office made the trip this time. Veteran Morten Andresen leading the way with Lawrence Rayner (who heads up Operations at MorePeople), Sarah Want (who heads up Horticulture) and me of course.

Many meetings, a few beers, and some excellent fresh produce samples later, what did we learn?

•Fruit Logistica is back! After a few years of Covid-affected shows, things are now normal. And thank goodness. So many companies have had to stress-test their operations in recent years and, whilst it’s not been easy, have come out the other side. Yes, we have plenty of new challenges regarding rising costs and availability but at least these challenges are slightly more normal. Retailers are being challenged on price and customers need to be educated on where their food comes from. T’was always thus.

•Consolidation is on the cards. The pressures in the markets today will surely see some consolidation. The herd will be thinned, and some companies will be absorbed by others. We’ve seen a few already and we expect to see more. As sad as some of these things are, it’s often part of a natural process – at least with an overall shortage of people in the market, I doubt anyone will be left without a job. But you can’t rest on your laurels. The demands from the industry are constantly changing and employees need to adapt their skills accordingly as well to not be left behind.

•If you work long enough, you’ll see that the markets move in cycles. Boom times followed by a bust. Reducing the number of suppliers to make a retailer buyer’s life easier, then later growing the number of suppliers in order to have more cover and greater depth of knowledge. Now is no exception. The fresh produce industry is filled with sanguine people who are adept at rolling with the punches. Work on the challenges in front of you and stay positive but also recognise that the groundhog will eventually stop seeing his shadow and the winter will end.

Morten Andresen, a regular Fruit Logistica attendee and Sarah Want who’s first visit was this year also comment on their learnings from the trip;

Morten comments; “Numbers and exhibitors for FL were getting back towards pre-covid levels which was very encouraging. Everyone is being squeezed to within an inch of their lives by the retailers. Whilst there are companies in other “cost of living crisis” affected sectors that are making record profits, a lot of Fresh Produce businesses have their sights set on survival and hopefully seeing the many challenges ease. There are a lot of exciting development and initiatives to look forward to. Businesses are recognising the need to adapt and implement change and we are starting to see this. Alongside this, there will be the opportunity for businesses to better market themselves and drive better customer engagement as well.”

Sarah follows; “I think people probably under estimate the sheer size of the Fresh Produce Industry. I went there, naively, thinking I knew a reasonable amount and what you see is phenomenal. On that regard, it was quite a humbling experience. Everyone I spoke to about the size said the same though, and I think it keeps everyone excited about the opportunities within this sector.

There was a section specifically for machinery, technology and glasshouse software and it helps you remember that we are a resilient, ground-breaking industry. In Fresh Produce, there are businesses continually trying to find the best solutions that reduce costs, improve yields or help efficiency. This area of the industry is very much a ‘watch this space’ because there’s so, so much going on.

My third, and favourite learning is probably how many different roles there are within the sector. They all seem to come back to people that a real ‘foodies’ but there’s openings for scientists, IT professionals, engineers, sales people, buyers, advisors, growers, supply chain and more. Everyone needs produce to survive, and what’s better than being part of an industry that feeds the world?”