Looking ahead to 2019 based on the trends and lessons of the past.
It was Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing, today the largest exporter of South African apples and pears that first, as early as 2001, decided that future success in the deciduous industry depended on two things: having sufficient volume to supply local and global customers with product 52-weeks of the year and, as essentially, developing a brand that might earn a premium above the commodity price.
That vision has proven an accurate one.
According to Tru-Cape managing director Roelf Pienaar, today, disruptors and leaders in the fruit industry are those who own and sell “club varieties”, in Agri-speak, fruit varieties considered sufficiently unique to be granted Plant Breeder’s Rights or PBR. With PBR the rights to plant and/or market that fruit is owned and granted by permission, typically in return for a premium price.
Pink Lady® might be the best known example of the success of a club variety. In essence a Pink Lady® is a particularly high specification of the Cripps Pink apple. But, as PBR were registered and granted, a premium has to be paid before marketing fruit as Pink Lady®. The reason is obvious: Pink Lady® earns more at check-out than Cripps Pink does.
As recently as November 2018, Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing received PBR for Shortie, as well as Fuji Royal which Tru-Cape jointly owns with a leading apple grower in Ceres, Robert Zulch. These two varieties along with Bigbucks, were discovered by company New Variety Specialist Buks Nel. FLASH GALA™ is the trademarked fruit from the Bigbucks tree and has already earned a double premium: at the purchase of the Bigbucks trees and per carton of FLASH GALA™ sold.
A guarantee of year-round supply and a basket of trademarked varieties are the keys to on-going success in the fruit industry today.
Another trend which is becoming increasingly important, following industry research into consumer buying habits in Germany, is a hunger for information about the story behind the product. In particular, and Germany’s socially-conscious consumers are leaders in this trend, rated knowledge about how workers are being treated above, price and taste, when deciding what to buy.
Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing began a focus on telling the good-news stories even before this research was published. The company recognised that the balance needed to be regained when it came to media reporting on the agricultural sector. Too often the focus was on an adversarial relationship between grower and worker which didn’t reflect the reality on the many farms and of the thousands or people impacted by Tru-Cape’s ability to successfully sell fruit.
There are, of course, many challenges that face the agricultural industry and on-going food security but which industry that employs thousands of people doesn’t also share these challenges?
Successful fruit agriculture today is about growing the varieties that best suit your soil and climatic conditions and in the quality, size and taste that consumers want. Equally, it is about being able to meet the agreed supermarket buying programmes – being able to deliver the agreed upon fruit.
“Our’s is a factory without a roof and these past drought-impacted seasons have been a painful reminder of this truth”, says Roelf Pienaar.
In the end, the value of the brand is also in the relationships between grower, processor, marketer and buyer and this, above all else, is the trend that will continue to matter going forward.