With a 16% market share, the company from Valladolid’s development is unstoppable
Fruit Today euromagazine interviewed Javier Meléndez, the person who took on the post of general manager in October 2014 and is responsible for the company’s frenzied momentum, today considered to be one of the 70 medium-sized Spanish companies with greatest growth.
We have run through not only business concerning his own company, but also asked for his foresight regarding the potato sector.
Why is it that the company you manage is maintaining such a notable development in such a short time?
This is due to several factors, but mainly to our “Agrarian Plan”, a formula that consists of sustainable contracts with the farmers, loyalty agreements at stipulated, set prices, where there is no room for speculation. Therefore, many farmers have joined our project, which brings us a competitive advantage because we have more raw material on offer. And unerringly, the communicating vessels phenomenon occurs, which leads us to another important development pole: export.
Where are these exports aimed at?
We have taken advantage of the geographical proximity and reasonable logistical costs to become stronger on the Portuguese market. Meléndez has known how to offer quality and good price in a country where not all the processes have been cared for before reaching the end consumer. Now we supply 2 of the main supermarket chains in Portugal. Trade with Portugal allows us to diversify in qualities, sizes, etc. Spain and Portugal are two differentiated realities regarding potato consumption and preferences.
Furthermore, our Agrarian Plan has also been carried out with farmers from Southern Spain, which has allowed us to make early potato exports to Germany, Holland and England.
I would like to underscore that 70% of the production that we transform is from Spain and for this we rely on the work of around 400 farmers, who are our best allies.
What implementations, looking to the future, are being carried out in your organisation?
We get ready in stages: first, with the improvement in the quality of the produce; secondly, with the creation of sales teams and lastly, with the development of a 4.0 industry, where automation, technology and the internet of things will be key elements of the transformation, etc. These processes are crucial to be able to make the new leap forward. We must look 5 years ahead, at least, because changes take place very fast.
Regarding new produce, we will make a strong commitment to the potato’s brother, the sweet potato. For this, we are going to build a new packaging and storage centre in 2019.
Do you think that the sector needs to be reorganised in the near future?
Yes, of course. It is a sector that is way too fragmented, although there are already three main packaging companies that deal with 35% of the market share and possibly in 2012, three or four companies will be dealing with a 50% market share.
The sector must be reorganised and future alliances should even be considered to reach a complete professionalism, where the entire chain, from the farmer to the transporter, the packager or the supermarket, all attain a high profitability.
We have a great challenge ahead of us because national potato consumption is continuing to fall. Therefore, research must be carried out to be able to offer new formats and products. In general, the new generations do not know how to cook our grandmother’s stews. We must offer the produce ready-prepared because I am sure that in 10 to 15 years’ time, half of the potatoes that we market will be prepared or semi-prepared, as is already happening in Holland or England.
Having said all this, we must not forget that the creation of an Interprofessional association in the sector is essential. This is the only way that I can see for us to be able to move forward together with all the agents in the chain. Analysis of the sector, training and promotion become essential.
We are at the gates of a new edition of Fruit Attraction and I am sure that you at Patatas Meléndez have forged many new developments. Can you give me a preview?
Briefly, I will tell you that we are going to present microwavable products with a wide variety of sauces, which we have looked after and chosen with great care. Additionally, we will reveal a new brand, which will represent a differentiated, high quality product, with coloured potatoes: violet, pink, etc.
I can’t tell any more now, as I want to make sure you come and see us and enjoy our show cooking.
Of course I’ll come.