4 november 2015

New Dutch kid on the block

Having convinced his daughter Maaike to join him, industry veteran Miguel Gonzalez has spent the past 12 months establishing a brand new fresh produce venture.

by Mike Knowles, Eurofruit

One of the European fresh produce industry’s most experienced importers has spent the past year creating a new operation that would appear to epitomise the modern breed of highly specialised sourcing companies. Having spent more than a year out of the business, last October Miguel Gonzalez began building MG Fruits from scratch with his daughter, Maaike.

Having celebrated their first year in business together, the company remains focused on managing just four main categories of fruit – pineapples, melons, grapes and citrus – rather than an entire assortment. What’s more, it plans to keep its overheads to a minimum and offer an efficient import service, renting warehouse space only when required, rather than making large capital investments that could weigh down its business plan.

This approach certainly seems to be working. In January, MG Fruits will move back into Gonzalez’ former headquarters in the Dutch trading hub of Barendrecht. But in fact, although Gonzalez himself retained ownership of the packhouse and office buildings, which are tucked away behind the main road in north-eastern Barendrecht, during his time away from the industry, the new plan will see him renting out the facilities to a logistics firm while occupying a small corner of the office space. With just four members of staff – including melon specialist Jacob Aktalan, who joined in June – MG Fruits is a considerably different proposition to the importers of old.

“We really believe that specialisation and being a small, agile company is the future,” explains Maaike Gonzalez. “We have to have as few fixed costs as possible. Our mission is to use my father’s experience and contacts, and concentrate on those products where we have good contacts with good suppliers.” Having taken up temporary residence in the offices of another Barendrecht-based logistics provider, the strength of her father’s experience, not to mention the abundance of contacts in his database, have given MG Fruits a head start in its debut year, Gonzalez suggests: “The first year has gone very, very fast, and we’re still building and thinking of expanding. People know that my father is an expert in melons. He was one of the first to go to Brazil to source the fruit in the early 90s, for example. His knowledge and experience is key.”

The fruit itself comes from a range of sources: pineapples from Costa Rica; melons from Brazil; table grapes from Peru, Chile and South Africa; and citrus from Argentina, Morocco and Spain. As for the clients, they have appeared all over Europe, says Gonzalez, but are mainly in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia and the Netherlands itself. “We’re doing a lot of trading with wholesalers, but we have clients in retail and foodservice, plus other importers.”

As is customary, certain clients require fruit from other sources in order fill gaps in supply, a service which MG Fruits is willing to provide – for example by topping up with small volumes of melons or grapes from Spain, says Gonzalez. “We wanted to concentrate on Southern Hemisphere imports, but of course clients want to have year-round supply, and we have good contacts in Spain.”

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2015 issue of Eurofruit. More information at fruitnet.com/eurofruit