Sweet onions are gaining ground

DanielMolinaMartinBerasategui

Jumosol, from Aragon, is one of the most prominent Spanish operators in this category, with an offer which, thanks to its Peruvian subsidiary, covers the entire year.

Fruit Today euromagazine talked to its CEO, Daniel Molina, just at the beginning of the campaign.

What production forecasts are there for this season in sweet onions? What has the sowing been like?

We are in the middle of the home harvest for the Spanish sweet onion campaign. Annually we harvest and market around 15,000 Tm between our farms in Spain and Peru. Our main asset is the Fuentes de Ebro Onion PDO, the only onion with designation of origin in Spain, which is just about to start its harvest in July. We are really obsessed with offering a mild flavour with our own varieties that allow us to provide consumers with a continuous offer 12 months of the year.

What percentage of sweet onions does Jumosol work with compared to normal onions? Are sweet onions finally gaining ground against traditional onions?

Over these 25 years we have changed the way of eating onions in Spain, introducing sweet onions into consumers’ minds and shopping baskets and we are very proud of this. We work with all kinds of onions, but 80% of our sales are comprised of sweet onions. Our dream is to change the way of eating onions around the world and for sweet onions to become universal and we are continuously working and insisting on this.

Jumosol has made a clear commitment towards produce with added value such as Ready-Prepared range and caramelised onion. How have they been accepted?
The latest consumption trend concentrates on incorporating healthier products that help us to strengthen our immune system with quality produce. For this reason, we have created an international brand, “The Real Sweet Onion”, a cool, fun and above all, very sweet project, with a communication that leaves nobody unmoved. Under this umbrella, we have launched our Ready-prepared range, ‘sweet onion that is sliced, prepared and ready to eat’ that creates a new way of consumption, without generating any waste and without shedding a single tear.

For true food lovers, based on my mother’s favourite recipe, we have obtained a naturally caramelised sweet onion, without any added sugar after cooking for 5 hours with great care. Traditional food, stews and soups, at any time of the day. We are delighted with both products, and the consumer response in store has been very good.

In addition to product innovation, what new projects does the company have in the pipeline?

I think that the sustainability factor must be taken seriously into account if we want our children to have a place to live. Therefore, in 2018 we started working on the eco-design of new packaging and today we have a container made using paper from sustainable forests, recyclable and with 0% of plastic content. A revolutionary container for presenting and selling onions. It is strong, not much more expensive than plastic and the inside of the netting can be easily seen. It is disposed of in the blue bin and it is biodegradable. We have been working on this disruptive container, alongside our technological partner CMSA, since the beginning of 2020. Once its use becomes generalised, it will save hundreds of tonnes of plastic from being dumped into the environment. Alcampo has been the first client to opt for it and they calculate a 6 Tm saving in annual dumping of plastic to the environment for the sweet onions that we send them. Imagine if this is extrapolated to a sectorial level, for the entire onion category and other products: potatoes, citrus fruit…

In general, during this time of pandemic, there has been an important demand for onions (people have cooked more). Is this trend continuing?

I think that we are all suffering from pandemic fatigue, but we will soon return to the normal consumer habits and trends that we had in 2019. I think that vegetables and natural produce are good selling points and this is where there is a great opportunity for the sector to claim onions as a food that strengthens the immune system, helping to prevent respiratory problems… We are currently in the International Year of Fruit and Vegetables and it is the right time to assert the ‘5 a day’ message and bring the entire sector around it together to lobby with messages that reach consumers.

How are your imports from Peru evolving?

We are the only European company with a subsidiary based in Peru that produces sweet onions for the European market; in fact, my brother Samuel directs the company. He lives in Peru and he is known as ‘the Spaniard’. Imagine how proud that makes me! Having such a solid structure in Peru that provides our clients with control and programme that other suppliers cannot give, and we are still growing.

What new infrastructures or technologies are being included in the central plant?

The investment we are making is aimed at all the innovations we have presented and we are launching onto the market: machinery for preparing our sustainable paper container, extending the white room for ready-prepared and ready-cooked foods and enlarging the installations where we process sweet onions and the other varieties.

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