Nut supplier Importaco leverages insight into the future 'nutsumer' to double its market share

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

What is driving the nut sector? Health, taste, convenience and sustainability / Pic: GettyImages-Baibaz
What is driving the nut sector? Health, taste, convenience and sustainability / Pic: GettyImages-Baibaz

Related tags Health Sustainability Nuts

Spanish nut supplier Importaco Group has signalled its intention to double its share of the food ingredients market by 2024. It will achieve this through a customer-centric approach that puts the future ‘nutsumer’ at the heart of innovation.

With a turnover of €770m, Importaco has a global presence in 36 markets including Spain, Italy, Belgium, Germany and the UK.

As a business-to-business supplier, Importaco does not have a verified market share. However, the company told us, according to internal calculations, the volume of dried nuts and fruit it produces places it as the ‘market leader in Europe’.

And, following its recent strategic tie-up with Italian peer Besana​, the company has ambitious plans to do more.

“Our market share will increase over the next four years as a result of a consolidation of our leadership position, with our goal being to double the volume in the ingredients business by 2024 to 25,000 tonnes,”​ a spokesperson told FoodNavigator.

‘Our plan is simple’

The company’s strategy to attract new customers and grow ahead of the market is ‘simple’. “We must establish and maintain quality and long-term relationships,”​ we were told.

These relationships are based on the group’s focus on food safety and technology as well as its ability to support customer innovation through processing know-how and its understanding of future nut consumption habits.

“We have a collaborative innovation model, where we put our knowledge in the service of the customer’s ideas,”​ Importaco President Toño Pons outlined during a presentation at the recent International Dried Nut & Fruit Conference (INC).

Importaco has created its ‘Tailor-Made Design’ programme to facilitate the development of distinctive products that meet the needs of clients across the concept, design, production, and implementation process. A project team of 40 staff helps launch over 40 new unique products each year.

“Through tailor-made projects, we provide exclusive and customized designs for each customer, their processes and expectations of the final result,”​ Pons elaborated.

The company has invested €6m over the past three years across its European factories that specialize in peanuts and almonds. It also operates a technology centre where it investigates the ‘future of food’, ‘product behaviour’ and ‘taste sensitivity’ and ‘continuous improvement’.

Importaco is attentive to new ingredients and processes that improve products already on the market, focusing on nutritional profile and customer experience.

The nut supplier also has an eye on the future, analysing ‘new trends and consumer expectations’ to create ‘new concepts and products’. “This research is applied to create new categories, enlarge current ones, and encourage innovation,​” the company elaborated.

What does the ‘nutsumer’ want?

“We are able to precisely identify the present and future of consumer behaviour and what this means for our sector,”​ Pons claimed at the INC.

According to the company’s assessment, ‘nutsumers’, as it terms them, are looking for ‘convenience, any place, any moment’ with 91% of consumption taking place between meals and 8% replacing meals totally.

Nut eaters are also looking for health and indulgence, personalization and functionality. They are also seeking a ‘delicious’ experience with ‘beautiful products’ that deliver an ‘intensity of taste’ and ‘crunchiness’.

“In today’s market, health is of paramount importance for consumers, with nut consumption on the increase due to their high source of nutrients and illness mitigating properties. Health and wellbeing will act as an ever-increasing driver for the market​,” Pons observed.

Finally, they are looking for products that are ‘good for me, good for the planet’. Pons said this translates into ‘carbon neutral’, ‘local’ and organic foods.

Focusing on sustainability 'will help the top-line'

This consumer and customer demand - as well as the company's own 'social conscience' - has placed the conversation around sustainable production at the heart of Importaco’s plans.

The supplier has invested €1m in improving energy efficiencies and the utilisation of renewable energy in the last year, resulting in a 14,800 ton reduction in CO2 (-8%).

Importaco’s climate action plan also unveils a move towards 100% renewable electricity use and recyclable packaging (at 91% currently) by 2023.

Another area of interest is the development of circular models for its nut production. The spokesperson detailed: “In terms of waste reduction, almonds are fantastic because we can use all of their parts. Almond shells can produce energy, almond skin can be extracted for compounds for animal feed, and almond pieces to produce up-cycled products such as flour and butter. Therefore, we can say our almond processes produce zero waste.

“Our purpose is to continue to apply circular economy principles to our processes to make continuous improvements.”

Why are sustainability initiatives central to Importaco’s ambitious growth agenda?

“Sustainability is now paramount in business development and the long-term development of the company,” ​the spokesperson responded.

“In terms of the ingredients market, for our clients the life-cycle assessment of our products, sustainable sourcing and circular economy are all important factors that they consider in their purchasing decisions. Focusing on these areas will help enhance our top line ambitions because it allows us to improve our products – and the planet.”

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