In February, this year, Nim's Fruit Crisps signed a distribution deal with the UK's largest retailer Tesco on a selection of its fruit and vegetable crisps, across approximately 1,500 stores. Tesco started with three varieties – apple, pear and beetroot and parsnip – and by the end of this month will start stocking Nim's pineapple crisps, made using pineapples sourced from Costa Rica and Colombia, currently imported via distributors.
Speaking to FoodNavigator-LATAM, Nimisha Raja, founder of Nim's Fruit Crisps, said the company wanted to start working directly with farmers instead of distributors, to enable bulk buying that catered to increased production demand and secure consistent supplies.
“At the moment, I'm sourcing from different distributors and they're buying indiscriminately. So, every time I have a pineapple or delivery, it will taste different to the one before. Going straight to the farmer, because pineapples grow right the way through the year in Colombia, means it's pretty much consistent in quality and taste,” Raja said.
Visiting the farmers, securing partnerships
Nim's Fruit Crisps connected with Colombian farmers through the ProColombia event held in Paris in September last year, and Raja said she had just returned from a business trip to visit one pineapple farmer and another banana farmer in the Pereira region, located in the foothills of the Andes.
“Of course, it was a big thing for me to go to Colombia but it was an investment well worth making and especially worthwhile once we had the Tesco listing.”
She said work had now begun to finalize securing farmer partnerships from Colombia.
“It was a successful trip. Now I know how it all works and the feasibilities, I would like to think we'll start [sourcing directly] very soon.”
However, Raja said Nim's Fruit Crisps firstly had to look into the Colombian farmers' current certifications to ensure they aligned with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) accreditation – a food safety standard Nim's Fruit Crisps operated under. “I need to make sure the certifications they have are stringent enough,” she said.
BRC accreditation – a global standard for food safety from the British Retail consortium – was introduced in 1998 and has since become recognized as a benchmarked Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) accepted by major retailers across the world, including Tesco, Walmart and Carrefour.
Raja said working through the Colombian certifications would take time because everything was in Spanish.
Cost versus opportunity
Asked how switching to direct sourcing would impact company costs, she said initially, it would mean a certain level of investment - buying cold stores to receive bulk shipments, for example - but in the long-run it would prove cost-effective.
Direct sourcing would also enable Nim's Fruit Crisps to remain innovative, she said.
“It's about finding produce we don't have in this country [the UK] like bananas, plantain, coconuts; we're looking at whatever else we can think of. We'll start with what we know and hopefully it will grow into a bigger enterprise.
“...The idea is to expand into other products. We're an innovative company, with innovative products, so you have to keep innovating to stay ahead,” she said.