UK-based global fruit import and export business Jupiter Marketing likes to do things differently. Whether it’s stepping in to save expeditions to the North Pole or extolling the virtues of social responsibility, Jupiter is pleasingly unique. Ahead of its appearance at the Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference, Produce Business UK was only too happy to listen to CEO Mark Tweddle expand on Jupiter’s 15 years in the sector, its plans for the future and why he thinks produce companies should behave more ethically
Just like any other commercial enterprise a fresh produce business has to be wise to the notions of innovation, research and development and trends – both customer and retail – among others.
And while we’re not suggesting that Jupiter Marketing doesn’t acknowledge the importance of these factors – it quite clearly does – it is refreshing to hear CEO Mark Tweddle giving due consideration to the eating quality of the produce from across the world that Jupiter (it specialises in grapes, top fruit, citrus, stonefruit and kiwifruit) handles at its Shropshire HQ.
It’s a theme that Tweddle returns to time and again ahead of Jupiter’s appearance at this year’s debut Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference.
Q: What message is Jupiter taking to Amsterdam?
A: We are exhibiting to show the retailers and customers in Europe the potential of our company as a direct supplier. We are now growing table grape around the world so our potential to compete for supply to Europe has never been better. We are always working on something new but one of the more exciting elements are our new variety growing projects across the world.
Q: Can you us about these new variety growing projects?
A: We are the first company in the world to take licensed varieties to India and grow in scale. Working with our growing partner and the Indian government we have achieved a world first. The operation over there rivals, if not exceeds, any Westernised production company. We are growing two new varieties, which opens new and exciting opportunities for our customers. Because of our groundbreaking success in India we have also formed joint growing ventures in Greece and Chile. This gives us an 11-month supply of the new varieties that eat fantastically and will be popular with consumers. We are investigating opportunities currently to offer a year round supply.
Can you tell us what these new varieties are?
A: Not at this stage. Both offer fantastic eating quality and extended supply windows so we are happy to speak to customers on a confidential basis.”
Q: What trends in customer buying/eating habits are you seeing/reacting to?
A: Eating quality is key. We spend a lot of time looking at the appearance but little time assessing the eating quality. Ultimately a consumer won’t buy again if they don’t like the taste. In our opinion we should be concentrating on the eating quality and less on the specification of size. That is a key reason why we are looking at specific new varieties. They achieve the goals of size and quality but importantly they taste great and if they taste great we will sell more.”
Q: Is it all about convenience? Quality? Health? Price?
A: It completely depends on the market. They all play a factor but sometimes to the detriment of how the product tastes. Ultimately if we can achieve all the factors and it tastes good then we will all be happy.
Q: Jupiter seems to have an innovative approach to its operations – including social media and marketing – is it important to be unique?
A: It’s important to have confidence in your own ability. We aren’t interested in what others are doing; we are only interested in what we can do. We haven’t reinvented the wheel but have just taken a different approach which businesses seem to like.”
Q: Is R&D key to keeping ahead of your competitors?
A: It’s very important but only part of the equation. It’s about offering an alternative service and approach.
Q: How do you manage the differing needs of each sector – from foodservice to retail via processing and wholesale?
A: We manage them by understanding each business and what they need. We take this approach to all markets and so far it has worked.
Q: What’s your business strategy for the next 12 months?
A: To sell more that we did last year. Our goals are not complicated.
Q: What are the issues facing the fresh produce sector at present?
A: Exchange rates, stability of markets and weather patterns. Fortunately none of us control them so we all have the same opportunity.
Q: Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years’ time?
A: Running a business with a secure customer base across the world. It’s important to keep things simple. We will look at opportunities as they come along and assess what we can deliver against them. We don’t set turnover or monetary goals as they can lead a business up the wrong path.
Q: How important are things like innovation, sustainability and transparency?
A: Very. What we do is not rocket science but to keep ahead of the game we need to keep looking at these elements in order to achieve our plans and not be afraid to try something different.
Q: How vital is it to maintain the optimum levels of communication across the supply chain?
A: Communication is key for all businesses. Sometimes, however, the old ways are the best. Just by picking up the phone so many situations can be easily resolved. We encourage all our staff to pick up the phone and talk. So many situations are created by poorly written emails when a simple conversation will suffice.
Q: Jupiter stepped in at the 11th hour to back explorer Mark Wood’s 60-day expedition from the Russian Arctic Coast to the geographic North Pole earlier this year. Mark, you also ran the London Marathon raising funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust. How important is social responsibility to Jupiter? Should fresh produce companies look to give ‘something back’?
A: It’s not only important for produce but for every business and person. We live our lives only once and only get that one chance to change something for the positive. If we can make people more aware, or help people in some way, we are making a difference.
Q: How did Mark Wood’s expedition go in the end? Was it successful? What does the future hold in terms of climate change?
A: It was successful in terms of the data and information they collated on the impact we humble humans have had on the world. All will be revealed in a Sky documentary. In the end it went well, but it goes to show you need up to a plan E sometimes to achieve your goal. If we don’t change how we do things our children or their children will live in a very different world as we know it.