Partnerships, perishables and pineapples
Tongue-twister and logistics challenge.
Whether or not pineapple belongs on pizza is a fiercely debated topic among Italians and non-Italians alike. But why does nobody ever talk about the cumbersome challenge of getting pineapples from the field to supermarkets across the globe? Probably because, in today's globalised world logistics has become so natural that only the logistics professionals and farmers are well-aware of the delicate endeavour that is pineapple logistics.
"The value of pineapples in 15th century Europe reflected these difficulties well", says Robert Mant, Global Reefer Sales Manager at Kuehne + Nagel. "In that époque a single pineapple could fetch you a fortune and thus symbolised wealth. The reason? Their rarity in Europe due to a very short shelf life", he explains. While today we're much better equipped - with temperature-controlled containers and faster transportation modes - to move pineapples, the shortest possible transit time from farm to market remains key to retain their freshness. “Unlike bananas, pineapples won’t ripen anymore once harvested and after their prime time they degenerate quickly”, Robert explains. Both for sea and air freight, this presents our KN FreshChain specialists with a true race against the clock.
While unexpected hurdles such as strikes and weather conditions can complicate this race even more, Jeanne-Mari Van Rooyen, Global Perishables Development Manager for Airfreight, clarifies that the stakes are further raised because of the perishables business’ personal character. "The people you meet are the farmers who are really passionate about the product and who make a living out of it. This passion keeps you on your toes and gives you extra motivation to provide the best service. At the same time, admittedly, it presents an additional pressure to treat their perishables cargo with the highest care ever."
Expeditious operations, however, isn't everything. "There's more to shipping pineapples than a short transit time. You also have to understand what pineapples are sensitive to in order to get the packaging, temperature and every other aspect right", Jeanne-Mari explains. “We regularly organise visits on farms to see where, and more importantly how the pineapples and other fruits we transport grow. We walk to process from field to table so that we can piece together the best plan for transportation", she adds.
It is good to know, that our experts have this knowledge. But even more importantly, our perishables experts ensure that this wealth of information is also shared with our customers. The result? Peace of mind for the latter and a fruitful cooperation. Having spent several years on the customer-side of the fruit transportation business before coming to Kuehne + Nagel, Robert understands the value of partnerships over a mere transactional way of doing business: “At Kuehne + Nagel we interact with customers using our knowledge and operational excellence. You see, as a sales person I can promise anything. However, the moment we fail on that we put ourselves in jeopardy. Working closely with the customer as a partner, managing their expectations and being transparent is essential to maintain our reputation and to retain our customers.”
For Jeanne-Mari there is another important aspect: "We’re in a privileged position in that we have a large network of contacts in airports, harbours and beyond. This gives us access to information that the farmers - our customers - often lack. So what we want to do is open that door for them and consult them on how to prepare the product for transportation, explain what kind of markets they might want to get into, and which limitations certain carriers may have.” Partnerships such as these, Robert and Jeanne-Mari both concur, cultivate the best results. It might require going the extra mile, but the fruits of the labour can be picked later. "There are many examples of customers whose business growth made our business grow. It shows that this approach pays off for both parties."
So think again before topping your pizza with pineapple. Not about whether it belongs there, but about the passion, expertise and partnership that went into getting it there in the first place!