JBT’s FTNON business unit is one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing areas of the JBT family. A specialist in preparation solutions for the fresh-cut industry, FTNON is eyeing worldwide expansion from its European base in response to demand for ready-to-eat foods and is now set to establish new manufacturing presences in North America, South America and Europe.
Originally acquired by JBT in mid-2018, Netherlands-based FTNON achieved substantial business growth in 2020 in spite of the pandemic, thanks to the continuing development of the fresh-cut market across the globe. However, although the pandemic has undoubtedly had an impact on fresh-cut sales in the foodservice channel, long-term changes in consumer behavior remain a dominant factor in its growth, explains FTNON General Manager, Richard Groenendijk.
“Consumers want to spend less time in the kitchen, they want to have everything prepared, but they also want it fresh, so I think that trend will continue to grow,” he says. “Restaurants have been closed, and they order large quantities of fresh-cut products, so that part of the business has suffered, but I’m convinced it will recover.”
“Retail, the other part of the business, showed very good growth and I think that’s the reason we had a very good year. The outlook for fresh-cut, with retail continuing to grow and foodservice likely to recover, is very positive.”
Closer to customers
Outside Europe, Groenendijk says the fresh-cut market is developing positively in North America and Asia-Pacific, while all the signs are that Latin America is beginning to follow the trend as well.
With this in mind, he says JBT have taken the decision to manufacture FTNON equipment closer to the customer. “Typically, our lead times have to be short. Customers think from one season to the next season and a season is maximum six months, so lead times need to be within that period,” Groenendijk explains. “You have ocean transport in-between, so you lose six weeks and that’s why we decided manufacturing should be close to our customers.”
FTNON equipment manufacturing is set to begin this year at existing JBT sites in Lakeland, Florida, US and Araraquara, Brazil, while Parma, Italy will be the new manufacturing center for FTNON in Europe.
Groenendijk says the move will not only be of benefit for JBT but having local manufacturing will also be advantageous for customers. “Customer Care can also be done locally. If customers need repairs or spare parts, they can rely on local JBT operations,” he says. “We want to do business in the local language and the local time zone.”
In keeping with a renewed focus on key markets – namely fresh cut, thermal processes and petfood – FTNON will be staging a series of webinars over the coming weeks, looking at the new CoreTaker® Flex robot in Europe and US, and JBT’s ability to supply a complete line for wet petfood in combination with other JBT solutions.
Groenendijk says the CoreTaker Flex robot will be of particular interest to salad processors handling more than just iceberg lettuce. “With a salad you have to take out the core to have the pieces you want to eat,” he adds. “The new CoreTaker Flex robot can handle a wide range of salad types, including iceberg. This reduces labor costs for our customers and improves the quality of the salads because you don’t have to handle them manually.”