The company’s history began in 1960 with founder Miguel Llombart’s dream: to distribute oranges and clementines from his hometown Nules (Castellón) in Spain, in Germany. Today, citrus fruits still represent one of the core competencies of the family business. With the founding of Llombart in Spain in 1981, the portfolio expands to include stone fruit, vegetables and salads. In 1998, the family founded the company Orange X-Press, as specialists in citrus fruits. Since 1999, Juan Llombart, as managing director, has been responsible for the continued success of the import and export of fruit, vegetables and salads.
FH: Tell us your secret of success: what distinguishes LLOMBART GmbH?
J: At this point I would like to refer to another affinity: we live our business like the love of cooking: We take experience as a basis, gained from decades of tradition, add a generous sense for trends and innovations and garnish everything with passion – that’s how we grow a bit beyond ourselves every day. I am very grateful to my family, and I also count our employees among them, for striving for quality and reliability every day. It fills me with pride. Without them, our story would not be possible.
FH: If you take up the topic of trends, what significant developments in consumer behaviour do you see yourself confronted with in the industry at present and for the near future?
J: We are experiencing a new awareness of consumers towards food. This includes values such as sustainability and regionality, but also the topic of health, conscious enjoyment and thus a holistically increased interest in product worlds and their benefits. This is accompanied by an increased willingness to spend more money on good quality. We are now faced with the challenge of making fruit and vegetables from all over the world palatable to consumers all year round, in addition to their preference for regional products. For this, a sustainable supply chain is just as indispensable as the topic of research, innovation and communication, in order to be able to bring together both interests, which at first glance seem to contradict each other.
FH: In your opinion, what are the essential measures to push the issue of sustainability?
J: We need a change in thinking. Consumers are actively demanding transparency and background information. This is our chance to meaningfully pick up consumers at the relevant touchpoints and to educate them. One example is the topic of packaging. A large proportion of consumers demand that fruit and vegetables be sold without packaging. However, this leads to a significant shortening of the shelf life, which in turn leads to increased food waste. The example of the uncoated cucumber makes this conflict of interest particularly clear. The promotion of natural-based coating processes can be an essential measure. Furthermore, we pay great attention to the expansion of compensatory areas of cultivation in production. On our partner fincas, we attach great importance to space for fauna and complementary flora. This implies a constant questioning of our own value chain and our own claim to deal responsibly with the available resources. At the same time, the relevance and potential of innovations in the sector become clear.
FH: What requirements, but also opportunities, can be derived from the developments mentioned for the fruit and vegetable sectors?
J: Our industry is already emerging as a winner from market developments. The proportion of those interested in or opting for alternative diets, such as vegetarianism or veganism, is growing steadily. We want to give fruit and vegetables a new role in the eyes of society. We have identified topics such as anti-aging, antioxidants or anti-inflammatory components as drivers. We want to pick up on the consumers’ awareness of health that has been mentioned and provide answers. To do this, we need to promote the corresponding fruits. We want to create wow effects and, in doing so, also reposition the citrus fruit on the market as a currently still unrecognised super fruit.
FH: How do you want to help this misunderstood superfruit gain more recognition?
J: Educational work is necessary here. In the Mediterranean region, it has long been perceived as a valuable enrichment of the Mediterranean diet and recognised by leading ecotrophologists. On the German market, consumers are not yet aware of the health benefits to the same extent. With new, innovative varieties in terms of taste and visual highlights, such as red or pink flesh, we surprise and stand out from the crowd. A fresh orange juice cannot be topped, as long as the quality of the fruit and the production process allow it.
FH: What role does your company Orange X-Press, founded in 1998, play in this overall concept?
J: The production process is the key. The Orange X-Press presses the juice oranges in a gentle way and at the same time extracts maximum fruit juice. Conventional processes squeeze the oranges, releasing bitter substances from the peel. Our Orange X-Press goes hand in hand with our 365-day orange concept. Matching bottles and other accessories round off the portfolio. Short reaction times and the longevity of the machine are what set us apart.
FH: What is your vision for the fruit, vegetable and salad business?
J: We are convinced that the value chain from the earth to the shelf needs a stronger involvement of producers. We understand the mutual relationship in the triangle between food retail [grocery trade], specialist and producer as a partnership construct. That is why we provide our customers with our entire know-how and services with the strong involvement of the producers. It is our concern to create perspectives for improvement and innovation for the producers so that they can invest to be prepared for bad years and climate catastrophes. It is important to us that the relationship of trust in the origin continues. Ultimately, this is the only way to ensure long-term commodity security for all partners in the trade.
Fruchthandel Magazine Anniversary 5000 Issue (06.03.2021). 60 years of tradition, innovation and passion, 09/2021, p. 37 (3)