This week, Leon Hijweege joined Keelings International Ltd’s sales division in the Netherlands. This Irish fruit and vegetable sector giant has sales offices in countries like France and the United Kingdom too. The Dutch sales office focuses mainly on trade to the retail, wholesale, and processing industries.
“Our biggest current challenge is expanding Keelings’ pineapple and melon customer base. Pineapples are a particularly big product for the company. It has a 900-hectare farm in Costa Rica called Las Brisas. Two hundred hectares of that is rainforest. Our French colleagues handle the supply chain. So, we can focus on sales and enjoy the benefits of Keelings’ import volume. We can sell more than 30 million pineapples a year. That’s one per second,” says Leon.
“That own cultivation is a unique concept. Las Brisas has the highest level of Rainforest Alliance certification. We market four lines; Classic, KO’LOR, PURE, and Fairtrade. PURE is completely residue-free. We cannot (yet) offer it year-round. We’ve replaced chemical pesticides with organic ones. And our grower uses drone technology to optimize fertilizer and pest control use. The farm also uses 95% less water than other pineapple plantations in Costa Rica.”
Keelings does not sell only pineapples. They market a wide range of overseas melons too. Those include Galia-, Piel de Sapo, Cantaloupe, yellow, and watermelons. They grow those in Brazil, Costa Rica, and Honduras. “Later, we’ll begin adding soft fruits to our package. But for now, pineapple will be my main business. And it keeps me well busy. We have a unique location in the north of Costa Rica. Because of that and the cultivation method, we’re sure we can bring the best quality pineapples to market,” concludes Leon.