” The main benefit of HPP is the ability to increase the shelf life of our products with guaranteed food safety and maintain the freshness and flavor. This is not possible with thermal pasteurization.”
Current consumers look for clean label and natural products with fresh-like quality attributes. Food manufacturers and retailers have to satisfy these needs and HPP has positioned as the preferred technology for it. In this post, Hiperbaric interviews Javier Valverde CEO of Caña Nature, a Spanish brand that leverages HPP for its fresh-like quality tomato and avocado products. Javier shares his own experience with retailers: whether they are familiar with HPP or not, their reactions when Caña Nature presents its range of HPP products and how HPP has opened new opportunities to locate its products on the shelves of more supermarkets.
During the last few years, we have witnessed a clear trend among consumers looking for clean label food and beverage products that are produced without harmful ingredients traditionally used for preservation. Another significant shift is the preference for refrigerated products instead of frozen alternatives, which are perceived as being of higher quality in terms of taste and nutritional value. These trends are causing a collaboration between manufacturers and retailers to search for solutions that satisfy current consumer demands and they have found one: high pressure processing (HPP). HPP is a non-thermal preservation technique that maintains the organoleptic and nutritious properties of products for longer periods in refrigerated conditions. HPP also ensures food safety since it deactivates foodborne pathogens and microorganisms that cause spoilage. All this by only using cold water and pressure applied to the product in its final packaging and without the need of adding any artificial ingredient. Thanks to its alignment with the consumer’s needs, HPP has positioned itself as the preferable alternative to traditional methods among food manufacturers and retailers are also recognizing it as the way to do things better
In this post, we share an interview with Javier Valverde, CEO of Caña Nature, a Spanish brand that leverages HPP for its fresh-like quality tomato and avocado products. Javier shares his own experience with retailers: whether they are familiar with HPP or not, their reactions when Caña Nature presents its range of HPP products, and how HPP has opened new opportunities to get its products onto the shelves of more supermarkets.
Q: How was Caña Nature born and what is its relationship with HPP?
A: Caña Nature was born 6 years ago as a result of the research efforts of Grupo La Caña with the aim of developing high-value products made from the resulting by-products of the companies main focus: growing and offering fruits and vegetables. In the beginning, it was clear to us that in order to offer a range of products that were more natural, tastier, and healthier, than the existing offerings on the market, we needed to preserve the characteristics and natural properties of the fresh fruit and vegetables, which inevitably led us to use HPP.
“We needed to preserve the characteristics and natural properties of the fresh fruit and vegetables, which inevitably led us to use HPP.”
Q: What would you say are the most important benefits of HPP?
A: From my point of view, the main benefit is the ability of this technology to increase the shelf life of our products with guaranteed food safety and maintain the freshness and flavor of the fresh fruit and vegetables we use in their production. This is not possible with thermal pasteurization.
Q: Who is the target consumer for Caña Nature’s products? What value does Caña Nature offer consumers?
A: Our products are designed to meet the needs of urban European consumers who seek to maintain a healthy lifestyle through our natural and tasty diet in a convenient way without additives or artificial preservatives in convenient packaging, that fits today’s lifestyle without sacrificing the taste of traditional cuisine. So I think that we are offering a product that exemplifies the lifestyle we aspire to in today’s day and age.
Q: In which countries are Caña Nature products present?
A: Currently our main market is Spain, but we have a growing presence in the retail chains (Costco) in the UK, Germany, Portugal, France, Poland and Romania. Soon, we expect to be present in Belgium and the Netherlands as well. All this has happened in just a few years, even through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Q: What has Caña Nature’s relationship with retailers been like since its inception in the market? Could you name some of them?
A: Well, I think it’s important to remember that Caña Nature started activities in January of 2020, two and a half months before lockdowns began. That made it very difficult for us to communicate with buyers at the beginning, both in Spain and in the rest of Europe, which was our primary target market. But having said that, from the beginning, we found a very good response from some chains, such as Lidl, Coviran or Alcampo, in Spain and many Spar franchisees in France. I think this was thanks to the differentiated product offering we were giving them.
Q: Are retailers normally familiar with HPP and its multiple benefits?
A: Well…it depends. The degree of knowledge of HPP and its advantages varies greatly from one buyer to another. There are buyers who have never heard of this technology and in this case, it is more challenging for us to communicate the benefits. Fortunately, there are other buyers who do know about the technology and they already appreciate its advantages. We could say that buyers of product categories where the use of this technology is more widespread, such as guacamole, do know about it. But among buyers of ready meals or other fruit and vegetable products, the degree of knowledge is lower. This lack of familiarity presents an opportunity for differentiation for us, as with our salmorejo and gazpacho products, where we are pioneering this technology and can offer a better solution than the existing products.
“There are buyers who do know about the technology and they already appreciate its advantages.”
Q: As for the retailers that are not familiar with HPP, what is their reaction when you present the benefits HPP provides to your products?
A: The main reaction is one of surprise by the fact that we can increase the shelf life without the use of heat and maintain the taste and texture of it.
Q: Regarding the retailers that already know about HPP, do they perceive it as a positive aspect when you say your products are HPP?
A: The reaction varies depending on the product category manager. The guacamole buyers are aware of the technology and its benefits and cannot conceive the product without HPP. But other buyers who manage tomato and vegetable products normally react very positively when they know that they can incorporate that differentiating offer on their shelves, especially due to the increase in the product’s shelf life and the reduced wastage while maintaining the fresh product category.
Q: Do retailers recommend or even require HPP for your products? Why?
A: It is not our case because all our products are HPP’d. However, we know a case where a company whose client demanded the product to be HPP’d and now we are processing this product for them.
Q: Has HPP opened new business opportunities for Caña Nature to start working with new retailers?
A: Yes, of course. Working with HPP has undoubtedly given Caña Nature the possibility of offering a range of products that are different from what was already in the market. This is what has opened the door for us in the main retail chains in Spain. Also, it has allowed us to start collaborating with some European chains which, until now, had not considered including grated tomato or fresh gazpacho because the transit time from production areas in Spain to the shops in the destination countries consumes almost half of the shelf life of the product and this means they had to work with pasteurized products which have neither the flavor nor the characteristics of the fresh product. We can say that thanks to HPP we are opening the market in Europe for fresh gazpacho and salmorejo. European consumers know these products because they have come as a tourist and have tried them at the beach or in a restaurant in Spain, but when they go to the supermarket in their country the product they have is treated with heat and the taste is not the same. We are now able to offer what they are looking for thanks to HPP, it’s a great opportunity.
“We can say that thanks to HPP we are opening the market in Europe for fresh gazpacho and salmorejo.”
Q: When you start working with a retailer, is it normally just with one of your products or with the full range?
A: Our objective is always to implement the entire range in each of the chains we work with, but the situations we encounter varies a lot. It depends on each chain’s product assortment policy. There are cases when the chain only considers one brand per product and this can make it challenging for us to launch the whole range if they have one of the categories already adequately covered. In other cases, the buyer prefers to increase the offer to their consumers with different references within the same category. Furthermore, there are chains that have different buyers for guacamole and gazpacho for example who also have different timelines for revising their product offerings. And this makes it difficult to incorporate the whole range. However, we are always trying to look at the maximum possible presence in our customer portfolio.
Q: How does Caña Nature position its products in the supermarket?
A: Our products are always placed on the refrigerated shelves of the supermarket basically because this is the way, together with HPP, to maintain the characteristics of our products without the need to use extreme treatments such as pasteurization. Being located on the cold shelves also conveys a sensation of freshness and added value for the consumer. Since our main sales argument is the taste of the product, we organize tasting at the point of sale because that is where the consumers perceive the quality and taste of the product and the word of mouth generated is the best promotion for us. This is reinforced by a strong strategy on social media.
Q: What are the plans of Caña Nature for the future?
A: In the short term, our objective is to increase our penetration on the retail chain, both at a national and European level, to increase our range in the chains we already work with, and to increase our presence in the food service channel. To enter this new channel, you have to offer specific formats such as single doses that we have already launched and big formats.
Q: And finally, what’s next in Caña Nature?
A: As I said before, from the distribution side we would like to consolidate our presence in the market where we already are and to expand it at a European level. In terms of product policy, gazpacho and salmorejo are specially dedicated to the summer, and now our R&D department is working on the launch of a new line of ready-to-eat products focused on winter consumption. This new range will be based on the same premises: natural, tasty and healthy. Apart from that, we are working on the development of a range of food adapted to the specific needs of certain population groups: elderly people and sporty people, but this is at an earlier stage.