Turkey offers niche import promise
October 6, 2014

The Turkish market presents potential for global fresh fruit and vegetable exporters to supply both high- and added-value items to the country’s retail and foodservice sectors, according to industry experts who spoke withwww.freshfruitportal.com.30-blueberries-JA

Despite Turkey’s huge domestic fresh produce industry there are niche opportunities for suppliers to offer new and top quality products to a growing middle class and international tourists.

High-value items like blueberries present particular promise, while value-added fresh produce with good shelf life, labeling, food safety and packaging carve the path to doing business with top-end retailers.

“Turkey is in a group of countries called the N-11, or Next 11 after the BRIC economies, which are all characterized by large populations, increasing wealth, a rising middle class and growing economies,” Promar International divisional director John Giles tellswww.freshfruitportal.com.

The Turkish economy is expanding by around 4% a year, according to Giles, while annual per capita income among its 76.6 million-strong population is fairly high at approximately US$10,000 and rising.

“The Turkish will start consuming products that they didn’t before and a sure sign of sophistication among consumers is to buy imported products, so there is significant potential for the import market,” Giles points out.

“There is no reason why Turkey would not follow the example of other emerging markets, and the supermarkets will also want to follow international examples of offering the best quality fruit from the best suppliers.”

According to Euromonitor International, sales of fresh fruits in Turkey totaled 7,856,800 metric tons (MT) in 2013, while vegetable sales reached 11,327,600MT.

However, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) statistics indicate the nation imported less than 400,000MT of fresh and dried fruits during 2011; largely bananas (234,632MT) as well as oranges, watermelons, dates, pineapples, soft citrus, kiwifruit, grapefruit, apples, raisins, pears, apricots and table grapes.

With Turkey’s domestic fruit and vegetable production totaling 46.7 million MT in 2013, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), imports in most cases are modest.

Nonetheless, Giles suggests there may be more opportunities for counter-seasonal suppliers such as the Southern Hemisphere, including South Africa, Chile, and Argentina in particular, as well as for exporters of products Turkey does not produce such as tropicals like bananas, mangoes, pineapples and avocados or niche, high-value items like blueberries.

According to FAO statistics, Turkey imported just 9MT of blueberries in 2011, but that could be about to change following a recent deal by Turkish importer Ideal Tarim to source the fruit from Chile in response to rising consumer demand for healthy products.

Retail development

In terms of the retail market Kantar Retail says Turkey has a very traditional set-up, with the majority of fresh food bought from wholesalers and street vendors.

But with increasing urbanization and very rapid modernization there has been a “huge shift” with “massive demand” for modern supermarkets in key cities.

“The modern retailers have traditionally done well with packaged products and not so well with fresh food but that is changing,” explains Kantar’s director of research, Ray Gaul.

“10 years ago modern supermarkets represented 20% of consumer spending in Turkey. Today it’s around 45% and it’ll go up to 60% in a few years to a level similar to Italy.

Gaul says household sizes are getting smaller in Turkey as more affordable property becomes available for multi-generational families to live separately in modern blocks of apartments.

As such, buying requirements are changing, plus families – especially the younger generations – are aspiring to more modern ways of cooking.

Simon Balderson, managing director of packaging specialist Sirane which operates an office in Turkey, agrees there is a trend toward convenience and the rapid preparation of meals to suit the busy lives of modern day Turks.

“There is a movement towards packaged products and smaller packs as well as convenience packaging, and away from larger, family-sized packs.

Balderson says Turkey has a growing and affluent middle class similar to South Africa, and, as such, he believes there is a developing market for top-end retailers in the west of the country which presents opportunities for experienced global exporters.

“The local suppliers haven’t got the same level of technology as western Europe in terms of packaging and the cool chain, so there are certain opportunities at a higher level,” he points out.

“There’s potential to supply those retailers in Turkey who need assurances that they can’t get locally, such as really high quality, good shelf-life, labeling, food safety, packaging and an unbroken cold chain.

Giles adds that although Turkish consumers are currently accustomed to local prices, quality and standards that will change.

“As per capita income increases, consumers will become wealthier and will travel more for business and pleasure where they will experience new products, so they will want the same varieties and quality as elsewhere,” he predicts.

“Over a period of time 5-10% of the population will want to consume the same products and quality that’s sold in other parts of the world.”

Foodservice trends

Turkish consumers are already becoming more sophisticated, according to Gaul, which is demonstrated by the growing trend towards eating out.

“They are also starting to want to procure the food that they are trying at restaurants to consume at home too,” he explains.

“The food television networks are also very popular in Turkey, so that could be another good vehicle for introducing new products to the market.”

Turkey’s extensive tourism industry, mainly in the south-east, also presents niche opportunities for global fresh produce suppliers to meet demand for high quality and high value produce.

“The big global hotel chains like the Marriott and Hilton are generally working with nationwide catering companies like Sodexo to source fresh produce,” Gaul explains.

“Tourism to some extent drives demand; for example hotels will go to wholesalers and demand smoothies because it’s a global trend and they require a range of fruit.”

Giles adds that supplying to Turkey’s tourism and foodservice industry could be a building block for the import trade since there will be niche demand for high quality and high value produce.

Lastly, analysts indicate that Turkey could also serve as a strategic link between Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.

“Turkey could become the Netherlands of south-east Europe,” Giles proposes.

“Geographically, some might use Turkey as a springboard into Russia, the Middle East, or to access north African countries like Tunisia, Morocco, Libya and Algeria which might be difficult to sell to directly.”


Fresh Fruit Portal