06 Jun, 2016
The desire to bring the bountiful freshness and flavour that the Dominican countryside has to offer to the nation’s cityscape is the genesis behind, one of the country’s well-known agro-processing companies. Nestled in the western zone of Santo Domingo, A.M. Frutas y Vegetales, SRL prepares and manufactures a range of tropical fruits with the aim of delivering the highest quality natural-tasting products for their clients. These include fruit pulps, which are prepared purees, juices, ice cream, yogurt, sauces and drink mixes.
Miriam Tejada & Ariel Marte started the company in 1983, and today the business has a complement of 30 full time and 15 seasonal employees. In 2010, their daughter Estefany Marte took over the reigns of the operations to become General Manager. At the time, she was a professional classical ballerina, but traded in her pointe shoes, for plastic boots in pursuit of a higher calling.
“I fell in love with the business because of the beautiful extraction process and the natural products we were creating”, Estefany reflected.
A.M. Frutas y Vegetales was one of the first agro-processors to select, disinfect, and pack fresh produce for distribution, during a time when supermarkets were still selling these items in bulk. Predictably, being a pioneer in this field comes with its own challenges, one of which was educating customers, at that time, about the benefits of consuming raw, natural fruit products. Today, however, this is an emerging trend, as consumers are becoming increasingly conscious about their preference for healthy products. In fact, this is how the company found their niche.
“The production process begins with the careful selection of our providers. We make sure that no pesticide or prohibited chemicals are employed on the crops used to make our pulps, while encouraging the use of good agricultural practices. By sticking to our values of never using concentrates, preservatives, or colorants, we have been faithful to our belief that the raw products are better, simply because this is how nature intended its fruits to be”.
As experts in natural fresh products, A.M. Frutas y Vegetales has invested in a controlled process that ensures that their raw products are not only delicious and healthy, but also safe. As such, the company holds two international certifications: ISO9001, which speaks to the implementation of quality management systems, and HACCP, a management system that addresses food safety at multiple levels of production.
Today the company’s major customers include supermarkets, restaurants, hotels, and other food industry merchandisers. Their main competitors inherently include other companies selling fruit purees, but Estefany is confident that they are the only one in Dominican Republic, with the present levels of control and certifications that are selling the 100% natural and raw products. Moreover, setting A.M. Frutas y Vegetales apart from its competition is another aspect that is always foremost in Estefany’s mind.
“[It’s important] to innovate constantly, and not just follow what everyone else is doing. Trying to find our own space in the market can be difficult, but being creative in the long run is truly more rewarding”.
Though they currently only supply to the local market, A.M. Frutas y Vegetales has plans to expand into the international sphere, as a few potential clients are interested in their raw purees.
“With our two international food safety and quality certifications, the doors are open. We just needed to perfect our packaging and branding, and now we have it. ‘Capricho’, which means, ‘Craving’ in Spanish, is a brand of natural, raw fruit purees that we have available. Our package is an innovation in the market, and has received great feedback from the local industry because of its practicality, quality and beautiful design”.
The company’s approach for entering these new markets is driven by the adoption of innovative practices, the needs of the market they wish to penetrate, and the desire to deliver premium quality and differentiation. A.M. Frutas y Vegetales also sought out prospects that were available to regional businesses that are seeking to enhance their competitiveness and export to new markets. Some of these opportunities were gained through engagement with the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export).
“We engaged the Agency for the first time in 2014 after conducting some research on their website. Some of the programmes we were involved in included the Special Call for Food Safety and Direct Assistance Grants, ProNET, and Market Intelligence training. Involvement in these initiatives has been a great experience, and truly great motivation for our progress”.
Becoming a recipient of the Food Safety Grant was a turning point for A.M. Frutas y Vegetales, as the company used the funding to formulate and finalize a central aspect of the production.
“The two grants have helped with the launching of ‘Capricho’. The first grant was used for a new automatic washing and disinfecting line, and second for a filling and sealing line for the fruit purees”.
Since the implementation of these projects, the company has seen an increase in sales, which has translated to approximately a 25% increase in revenue. Estefany credits the support received from Caribbean Export as a part of their improved quality and income.
In terms of long-term aspirations, there are plans for A.M. Frutas y Vegetales to transform the regional food and beverage industry, and become a leader in the raw fruit and vegetable market. In the short-term, however, Estefany is focused on conquering the local and regional export markets.
“We are looking to export to Scandinavia, the Caribbean and Central America; in addition to expanding in the local market with Capricho’s new package”.
Estefany believes that knowledge of market regulations is critical when seeking to expand and increase exports. Adding that understanding how the market works in terms of consumer needs, current offers, competitor prices, and packaging requirements are just a few of the areas that should be researched. She also summarized her success in three words: innovation, focus and teamwork.
A.M. Frutas y Vegetales has no plans to rest on their laurels, and with their revolutionary approach to business they will continue to grow as an innovator in the production of natural fruit and vegetables products.
To get in touch with A.M. Fruta y Vegetables please contact:
A.M. Frutas y Vegetales, SRL
Calle Isabel Santana No. 29 Km 13 ½ Autopista Duarte
Santo Domingo, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC