Chilean fruit grows at the southern tip of Latin America, protected by the unique natural barriers of the Atacama Desert to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Andes Mountains to the east and the Patagonian ice fields to the south.
Chile is one of the modern-day world leaders in food production. Its agri-food industry represents one of the main sources of national GDP. The country exports more than 100 different species of fruit alone, from apples, blueberries, citrus fruits, cherries and grapes to kiwifruit, oranges, plums and pears.
A big part of the reason Chilean fruit has become so important to the world’s consumers is in the origin and, above all, in the people involved, who undeniably have a special relationship with their land and its cultivation.
Chilean fruits are grown across almost the entire Chilean territory and in all its 16 regions, thanks to the work of more than 8,000 producers of all sizes. The industry’s activity is guided by strict protocols, which is key to maintaining sustainability, as well as achieving optimum quality in the final product. The export market is vital, so each and every production process adheres to strict international guidelines, ensuring the application of good environmental practices. Worker protection and harmony with the surrounding communities is also to the fore.
The country has created a sector brand “Fruits from Chile” through which it aims to position Chilean fresh fruit in the world. This brand is led by the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (ASOEX) in collaboration with ProChile - a Chilean agency that promotes the supply of Chilean goods and services across the world - since 2010. The work of Fruits from Chile seeks to highlight and promote the advantage of the origin, the quality of the products and the mettle of Chilean workers, key factors that have allowed Chile to become a world leader in the fruit business.
Europe, a major market for Chilean fruits
Europe is a major marketplace for Chilean fresh fruit: in 2022, 20 European countries received shipments from Chile, with a total value of US$ 701 million (£545m). The Netherlands - as the main port of entry for the continent, the UK and Spain are the largest destinations.
Among the fresh fruits most exported to Europe are grapes, blueberries, kiwifruit, apples, pears, avocados, cherries, peaches, cranberries and currants.
In the first half of 2023, after China and the USA the Netherlands is the third biggest world destination for Chilean fresh fruit - with shipments of US$ 166 million (£129m) - and the United Kingdom lies fourth on that list - US$ 96 million (£75m). Chile supplies about 5% of the fruit consumed here.
Chilean fresh fruit exporters sell their product through various sales channels, including wholesale, retail and e-commerce markets, says Nicolás Poblete, trade commissioner at ProChile in the United Kingdom. He explains: “Wholesale markets are very important for Chilean agri-foods, especially in European countries where this type of space is a fundamental pillar in the management of wholesale sales and distribution of food to customers, given the culture of consumers in these countries. This is particularly true in the UK, which is symbolised by New Covent Garden, its main wholesale market.”
“In general, as a country we try to increase business in the wholesale trade by appealing to importers, making the origin of our products visible and selling at a competitive price for customers. The eventual aim of course is to satisfy British consumers, who are demanding in terms of the quality and health benefits offered by the food they choose to eat. Chilean products are also ideal to be sold in retail outlets, such as supermarkets or convenience stores, and of course into the foodservice and catering sectors, which combined are the main sales channels for fresh fruit to the UK’s population,” adds Nicolás.
Chilean berries in the UK
Chile’s supply of berries to Europe includes blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. The sale of berries - both fresh and frozen - has increased significantly over the last few years in the UK, in accordance with the changing habits of British consumers, who tend to over-trend in their purchase of organic products. This is mainly associated with new trends in online shopping and boxed food purchases, according to ProChile.
To the United Kingdom, the shipment of fresh blueberries stands out, where the amounts exported in the first half of 2023 are close to US$ 27 million (£21m) and frozen blueberries, with shipments of US$ 3 million (£2.4m). Blueberries stand out for their nutritional properties; they contain only 80 calories per cup, and are considered a food rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. Although blueberries have only been grown in Chile since the late 1980s, today the country has more than 15,600 cultivated hectares of the fruit planted, making it one of the key producers worldwide.
The availability window for Chilean blueberries in Europe is between October and April, which is when they are harvested in the country, taking advantage of their counter seasonality to the European crop to
offer top-class product to the market at the time when it is most required.