Gabaceras: the differentiating value of Canary Island bananas

The 2nd Gabaceras Forum was held from the 15th to the 17th of September on the island of La Palma. The encounter brought together representatives from Bargosa, the brand’s exclusive marketer, executives from Europlátano and wholesale customers from all over Spain.

In just under a decade, Gabaceras, Europlátano’s Premium brand has become consolidated as a reference for quality and flavour for Canary Island bananas, a distinction demanded by the operators who are looking for a produce with total guarantee.

The goal of the encounter was to get to know and respond to the wholesalers’ requirements, who also visited the Gabaceras plantations and the largest preparation centre in the Canaries.

“We are already at the 2nd Gabaceras Forum and our aim is to establish a growth and placement strategy for the next few years. We must look for a greater increase and penetration rate. We are ready for this because Gabaceras represents the differentiation; it is a guaranteed product, without reductions and with longer shelf life at the point of sale,” Eduardo Córdoba, general manger of Bargosa explains.

Over this eight-year journey, Bargosa, the brand’s distributor, has worked hard to improve the logistics networks. It has increased its sales teams and above all, it has started up new ad hoc ripening plants that guarantee the product quality.

Bargosa is one of the largest European operators and it has long term alliances in different parts of the world that allow it to market brands with renowned prestige, such as Del Monte pineapples. The company closed its last financial year with an invoicing of 128.000.000 million euros and around 220 million kilos of produce.

Likewise, and at source, Europlátano has taken care to look after each and every one of the aspects related to the cultivation, new produce varieties, plant protection applications, logistics and handling at the preparation centre.

Both tasks together have meant a launch and brand awareness unheard of until now for a product such as Canary Island bananas, where the end user identified its origin without linking it to a specific brand.

“It is a joint task between Europlátano and Bargosa, therefore the exchange of opinions is very important at a forum like this one. We want to continue improving and therefore we need a flowing communication between all the agents on the chain. If we have to modify anything that we are doing now, we want to hear about it because the end result will benefit us all,” the chairman of Europlátano, Francisco Lorenzo Speranzini explained.

The guarantee of the figures. Gabaceras’ take off is emphasised by its figures: from the 800 tonnes marketed eight years ago, to the 25,000 marketed today. The forecasts for this campaign are pointing towards a new record, around 30,000 tonnes. Along with these numbers, Europlátano’s business increase should be emphasised. It is the banana company that is recording the greatest growth in the islands and which, through its SAT will produce 70,000 tonnes of bananas in 2016/2017. Additionally, for the first time, it will reach the very demanding Swiss market with a continuous supply.

“Thanks to the placement and the sales work performed by Bargosa, we have experienced an important growth and this has led us to install new handling plants, first on the island of El Hierro, then in Arona and Los Silos in Tenerife and shortly we will open a third one also on the island, the managing director, Antonio Javier Luis Brito explains.

The uniqueness and the differential value of Gabaceras. The Gabaceras project was born on an island that is a Biosphere Reserve and a miniature continent, with a wide range of native flora and fauna species. An island with important water reserves, coming from the spectacular Parque Nacional de la Caldera de Taburiente, which provides the water flow necessary to develop the crop.

In addition to this, the districts where Gabaceras has its main crop plantations have a very mild micro-climate and the most constant sunlight throughout Europe.

The history. Gabaceras is a brand that is closely linked to the island’s history. The island was incorporated to the Kingdom of Castile in 1492 and divided into two estates, one of which, Abajo generated the first farms, which at that time produced sugar cane and vines. Sugar and rum production held a significant importance in the 16th and 17th centuries and important sales networks were established with Northern Europe and the New World.

The name ‘Gabaceras’ comes from the word ‘gabazo’, which are the remains generated when obtaining sugar from sugar cane. The brand was already being used in the 1920s, 30s and 40s to export bananas to Europe, during a period when there was a lack of purchasing power on the mainland market.

“When we thought about creating a quality brand at Europlátano, we dived into our own history because we wanted to innovate, whilst conserving our tradition and essence and we thought that one of the best formulas would be to rescue the origin of the name of something that had meant so much on the island,” Brito qualified.

Background. Until 1993, the reality of the Canary Island crop was a product that was heavily subsidised by production kilos from Brussels and without any competition with the plantain, which had to pay entry duties to mainland Spain. All of this generated a significant neglect in the production processes, where production was sought without any concerns about quality or flavour.

When Europlátano was established, with the idea of creating a Premium produce, all these criteria were brought into question by the associates. “It was a moment of reflection and looking back to see what we had done wrong. We realised that there many deficiencies, amongst which were the incorrect use of plant protection and the production of a variety that undermined the goodness of Canary Island bananas, the Gran Enana. From this point onwards, we started to act to recover the true essence of the Canary Island banana, a medium-sized fruit, with great flavour and a much better colour that the plantain.”

“This was the moment when we decided to formalise and audit all our actions ranging from the fields to the centre”, the executive confirms.

Today Europlátano is the Canarian company with the greatest turnover certified by GlobalGap, around 40,000 kilos from 611 hectares. It also holds the Integrated Production Certificate, the Ecological Production Certificate and the Carbon Footprint Seal.

Corporate Social Responsibility is one of the company’s priorities, along with respect for the environment. On the last point, the bananas that are not marketed are crushed and end up as organic material. The water used inside the installations is purified and reused for irrigation and the preparation centre is equipped with a solar panel.

Adaptation to the customers. Since its beginnings, Europlátano’s efforts in production, along with those made by Bargosa in sales development, have been aimed at covering the different needs of each market segment and to do this it has 6 lines of differentiated processes in its main packaging centre. “Not all the markets are the same, not even the different geographical regions; therefore we look for different solutions for each specific customer.”

Gabaceras’ production is subjected to some specific processes, amongst which are, primarily, growing the correct variety. This means that the Gran Enana was replaced by the Pequeña Enana, a variety that offers fewer kilos, but higher quality.

Furthermore, there is a decisive commitment to using organic products in the fields, with analyses that are reviewed every six months and with technical equipment that give specifications for maximum harvesting sizes.

The plants are also protected against any aggressive cultivation techniques. The bunches are sheltered against the wind using ‘bagging’, where the different hands of bananas are also protected. “We maintain over 100 processes that are reviewed by teams of professionals, with a commitment to continuous improvement, as well as produce traceability, which covers each box that leaves the island.”

Marketing work performed by Bargosa. The company that has grown and worked exclusively on the development of the most well-known brand of Canary Island bananas is a company with deep roots, tradition and know-how, with a history of over 6 decades. Bargosa’s marketing work spreads over both hemispheres and the five continents, 52 weeks a year, which provides a total guarantee of supply for all its customers.

The company boasts long term strategic alliances with the top companies and producing regions in the world. With the joint harvest of Canary Island plantains and bananas, Bargosa is positioned as the first Spanish operator with an annual volume that exceeds 130 million kilos.

Bargosa is also a leader in two other categories: pineapple and melon.

The company is the top panellist for the renowned Del Monte pineapple. Bargosa’s weekly supply in this category reaches 22 ships per week.

“The pineapple market has made a complete turnabout, suffering from different ups and downs in recent years and today, once again, it is being treated as high range produce. We are leading this segment with the incorporation of the sweet pineapple SuperSweet”, the executive from Bargosa explains.

Melon marketing is possibly the company’s most unknown area, but the truth is that it is a historic product that is well-known by its professionals. The melon portfolio remains open throughout the four seasons of the year, with imports from the other side of the world and professionals travelling to the different Spanish producing regions.

Currently, the company’s latest interest lies in revaluing its own brand name, Solen, for the different categories of its imports.

But the future of Bargosa is seen to be even more extensive, with the taking on of new categories, such as exotic fruits.

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