Marketed exclusively by Worldwide Fruit in the UK, Jazz apples have been standout stars of the UK fresh produce sector over recent seasons. But what lies behind the brand’s appeal that makes its backers so confident of success? Produce Business UK takes a look
Ask supermarket shoppers to name a brand in the fresh produce aisles and the usual suspects – Jaffa, Pink Lady, Florette – will likely feature prominently. But among them, it is a safe bet to say apple brand Jazz will gain a mention.
One of the fastest rising stars of the UK fresh produce sector, Jazz has achieved startling progress over recent seasons in a crowded marketplace, with the brand well on its way to becoming as well known as Pink Lady.Another important fact about Jazz is that it is wholly supplied in the UK market by one company; Worldwide Fruit. The company is owned jointly by New Zealand’s Jazz brand-owner Turners & Growers and UK producer organisation, Fruition.
UK consumers spent just over £32million on Jazz apples in the 52 weeks to 21 June 2015, a 7.3% rise compared with the same period 12 months before, according to Kantar Worldpanel data.
To put the figures in context, long-established names such as Cox and Golden Delicious suffered sales drops of 11.7% and 8.4% to £58.3m and £47.5m respectively during the same period.
Jazz does have a way to go before it comes anywhere near the sales of Pink Lady however, with the brand – only behind Gala and Braeburn now in terms of overall apple rankings – having achieved a 14% rise to over £119.6m compared with the previous 12 months.
Still, Jazz’s share of a UK apple market that in the same 52 weeks clocked up £875m worth of sales is not to be sniffed at, and Steve Maxwell [no relation to the author], CEO of Worldwide Fruit believes the brand’s market share will continue to move on an upward curve.
“With the exception of Pink Lady, I think Jazz blows the socks off everything else that’s out there,” says Maxwell. “It’s got real depth of flavour and consistency – for 52 weeks a year it tastes the same. Week on week, you always get the same flavour. Not every apple is like that.”
Maxwell and Worldwide Fruit are so confident about the continued prospects for Jazz that they have embarked on an ambitious planting programme, aimed at hugely increasing supply of the apple from northern-hemisphere locations, particularly the UK.
Worldwide Fruit and its affiliated growers have an estimated 380,000 Jazz trees in British orchards, but Maxwell says the company is well on its way to adding substantial numbers of trees within the next two to three years. Further supplemented by production in France and Italy, Worldwide Fruit’s aim is to move from the present cycle of six months Northern Hemisphere, six months Southern Hemisphere, to seven months’ supply from the UK, Italy and France.
“We’ll be planting within the next full year, with a view to having more fruit coming in from the UK, France and Italy,” says Maxwell.
The decision to increase volumes is, he says, being driven by market demand, which has seen premium varieties – such as Jazz and Pink Lady – continue to sell well despite the challenging economic conditions.
It may not have the visual impact of Pink Lady, but Maxwell says Worldwide Fruit has achieved greater brand recognition for Jazz through social media and consumer events, while price promotions have also played a significant part. “A lot of the work is focused on getting people to try Jazz,” he says. “We find that a lot of people try it when it’s on promotion and then they stick with it.”
In general, Maxwell says Worldwide Fruit has achieved a solid 12 months’ trading, with one of the real highlights being its receipt of Silver Supplier status from Marks & Spencer.
In the face of a “ridiculously competitive” marketplace, he says Worldwide Fruit has been able to benefit from its solidity of supply, added value through packaging and continued investment in staff and training.
These investments have included new storage space opened last September that has enabled the company to increase its focus on delivering ripe and ready-to-eat pears and avocados; a major area of growth for the firm.
“Every time we ask a customer what is the barrier to buying more pears and avocados, they say it is that people don’t know when they are ready,” explains Maxwell. “If we can’t educate people on avocados and pears, let’s give them the fruit ready to eat.”
However, Maxwell admits achieving ripe and ready-to-eat fruit has not always been easy. “You can’t just stick it in the store; you’ve got to have expertise in your staff and the correct kit, you’ve got to invest in kit, training and people,” he says.
Looking ahead, Maxwell says that as well as Jazz, Worldwide Fruit is excited about the prospects for two other New Zealand-bred varieties – Envy and Smitten – which are now being planted in the UK. Smitten, he says, is a grower-friendly, “standard-plus” apple, while Envy is a “super-sweet” variety, which its backers believe has a real chance to forge a niche place in the ever-competitive UK apple market.