“We keep introducing new product items but they need more fridge space for retail visibility. For example, often only one of the 5 items in our line of mixed fresh-cut greens, which are ready to eat or sauté as you like, finds display room”. Rago Group sales director Rosario Rago goes straight to the point. Display space for a product category can hamper or promote sales, especially for convenience items and in smaller supermarkets. Yet the fresh-cut assortment already arrayed is broad and growing – from baby-leaf mixes of green, red and Romain lettuce, spinach, rocket and valerian to the more exotic with sugar loaf, tatsoi, kale, curly and black cabbage. “The trade today accounts for 50% of F&V retail sales. The main driver is a lifestyle seeking convenience to hand. And the trend will continue so long as producers keep innovating product and processing and for longer shelf-life. We invest 4%, some €21 million, of our revenues in R&D”.
Innovation is an important asset at Rago. Managing its carbon footprint is too. The company has invested in ‘smart’ input systems of water, land, and energy. It has a 15 thousand-square metre garden to more than offset Co2 release, solar panels on its plant roof and a composter facility for recycling waste as fertiliser for the garden. Everything’s set for the new certification that assesses environmental impact throughout the production cycle.
Established as a farm in 1892, Rago Group today is Europe’s second exporter of rocket. Its baby-leaf lettuce in year-round cycle is a leader too. All items must meet strict standards set by the company. If they pass inspection upon delivery at the plant for processing, they are issued a kind of ID card that makes product traceability simple and easy.
With head offices in Battipaglia near Salerno, it’s no accident that Rago Group grows and manages crops on some 200 hectares in the nearby Piana del Sele plain. One of the country’s premier fresh-cut districts, the area today produces greens year-round and supplies 60% of Italian fresh-cut items. Even competitors in North Italy draw supplies from the district in their off-season.
The domestic market accounts for 60% of the sales and exports to Europe the rest. Rago also sells bulk produce with a 10-day shelf-life to markets farther afield.