BerryWorld, best known in the UK as a leading supplier of soft fruit to the supermarket sector, today (January 18, 2016) announces the formal restructure of its expanding global operations under a single umbrella – the BerryWorld Group. The Hertfordshire-based firm will also launch a new consumer brand, BerryWorld, to highlight its proprietary berry offer year-round. Produce Business UK talks to group managing director Adam Olins about the changes that mark BerryWorld’s 21st year
BerryWorld and its associated companies have enjoyed considerable growth in the last two years. In 2015, BerryWorld’s total turnover from the UK and abroad exceeded £320 million.
In order to sustain and secure future growth plans, the company has created the new structure and identity for its berry businesses in the UK and overseas. The group will consist of BerryWorld UK, PrepWorld, and also the joint ventures BerryWorld Plus, BerryWorld Europe* and Eurafruit South Africa. In 2015, the company successfully completed its first season growing its proprietary raspberry varieties in Germany within an exclusive agreement with Frutania GmbH.
The restructure also includes an announcement of the formation of BerryWorld Australia, its latest joint venture with Gavin and Stephen Scurr of Piñata Farms, in Queensland, which will start trading this year.
“The success and evolution of our business model has given us the perfect opportunity to create a cohesive brand identity for the group and ultimately the end consumer,” says Adam Olins, managing director of the BerryWorld Group. “Our new corporate identity is rich with symbolism reflecting the foundation of strong partnerships both within our group and also with our growers and retailers.“
Olins has become managing director of the global group, while Paul Cole (pictured left) has been appointed managing director of BerryWorld UK. Margaret Mountford has taken up the position of chair of the group.
Olins tells PBUK: “We’ve spent a large part of the last year talking about the makeup of the group, which has changed significantly over the last few years. We are 21 years old this year and, while most of what we do does still come out of BerryWorld UK, the last three years have seen us establish PrepWorld in the UK, as well as joint ventures with Vitalberry in Holland, BerryWorld Plus and Eurafruit in South Africa, in which we have a share that increases each year.
“I wouldn’t say it was all part of the masterplan,” he continues. “We didn’t really envision that these things were taking us in this direction, but the vision has evolved over time.”
BerryWorld decided some time ago that its own path was to create joint ventures, partnerships and alliances with growers in other countries. “Our joint ventures to breed and grow our varieties are all run with exactly the same principles,” says Olins.
The UK market continues, of course, to be crucial to the BerryWorld Group’s strategic vision. However, partnerships and alliances with growers overseas are by no means focused purely on servicing its UK customer base. Finding international partners to grow local fruit for their local markets is a big part of the way forward.
“Eurafruit was growing fruit exclusively for sale into the UK market, for example, but now it is also available to Dutch customers. We’re also sending branded fruit to Malaysia – sometimes it just depends where your contacts are – and we now grow raspberries in Kenya. What we already have is very nice [business].”
“Frutania grew some of our varieties last summer, it went well and we are going to grow a larger volume this year. They are solely for the German marketplace and we will focus on building that up. It is very likely that we will do similar deals with growers in other European countries, for sales into their local markets.
“Our long-term philosophy of being involved from breeding to marketing has given us a unique proposition on a global scale,” Olins adds. “We have seen significant demand and high consumer satisfaction in our international award winning** BerryWorld Plus raspberry varieties, Sweet Eve strawberries and Black Magic blackberries. Our established relationship with the Edward Vinson strawberry breeding programme gives the group an unparalleled varietal offer across the territories we currently operate in. Our berries have been sold in retailers throughout the UK, Holland, Scandinavia, Germany, Switzerland and Dubai.
Black Magic blackberries
“What we have learnt is that [international breeding programmes] need to be co-ordinated and controlled and we have spent a lot of time analysing the best way we can do that as we expand internationally. We have looked at various models.
“The traditional way with berries has been to sell varieties to propagators, who then sell as many plants as possible to growers. That has worked for people before, but we want to have more control over the volumes of fruit that end up in the market.
“With strawberries, for example, there is good demand around the world, but that demand is good at the level of production we have now. We don’t need production to rise particularly. I think it will get better again, but I don’t think we can force demand by planting more. “Sometimes, people have to go backwards or stand still before they can go forwards again. New growing techniques and innovative varietal development will help us address the challenges, but it takes time.”
Breeding programmes are of little use unless they offer you a real point of difference, Olins adds: “Whatever you release, it has to be better than what is out there already. It has to have enhanced flavour, improved yield for growers, firmness and other attributes. It’s a global market and if you have something that is good, you can be successful with it around the world. The key is the structure of the model – the partners, the varieties and the marketing have to be right.
Most important amongst those things are the partners, he adds. “You have to work very hard to find the right partners,” he states. “You need that point of difference, but of course you also need scale. If you don’t have the scale, then you’re not very interesting as a breeding programme. But once you have the scale, you have to manage it very carefully.”
It is the varietal success and scale of the group that has given it the confidence to invest in genetics, he adds, such as the MBO blueberry breeding programme. Its new Australian programme will allow growers in Europe, Morocco and Southern Africa access to exclusive premium varieties.
“We’ve created a series of separate units under one banner. They will all have their own identity, but with one common denominator – that they will have the ability to sell our group’s exclusive varieties to customers around the world. We’re not trying to sell to everyone – this is not about global domination. It’s very targeted and we’re not in a rush. The objective is to slowly but surely build a sustainable market for our varieties,” Olins says.
“We are also launching a BerryWorld consumer brand, which is founded on a desire to give consumers the maximum pleasure and enjoyment from eating our berries, every time they buy them, whatever the season,” adds Olins.
“Brands are very nice to have, but that is not why we are doing this. Some of our customers have asked us to do that and we’ve gone for BerryWorld as the name. We’ve already sold some BerryWorld branded product into certain customers in Europe and elsewhere, so it’s not entirely new.”
Explaining the significance of the new brand identity, Olins adds: “The identity is rich in symbolism; it represents the constantly evolving cycles within nature and is abstract depiction of a colourful, tasty and juicy berry, brought to life by the sunlight that nourishes it. The brand logo is plump and plentiful, just like the berries we harvest. We want to make our consumers smile as they discover the richness and joy within our world of berries; this is illustrated by the curved “BerryWorld” text, which differentiates it from the corporate logo.
“The seven elements that create the new identity are representative of the seven continents, seas and wonders – reflecting our global network and shared ambitions to deliver beyond expectation for growth and success.
“Growing the berry world – that sums up what we are aiming to do; we are obviously still viewed mostly as a UK-focused company, but in the context of our business now, we are doing that on a global scale. Already, more than a third of our sales are not standard berry sales to the UK multiple retailers and, without doubt, that proportion will increase. We have changed – adapted to our circumstances. We’re not just a marketing company.
“Not that I think we ever really were.”
The BerryWorld Group will be at Fruit Logistica 2016 in Berlin, Germany – Hall 3.2, Stand B20.
*Formerly VitalBerry BV, there are no changes to the management structure or the way the company runs it business. This is purely a name change to fit within the new BerryWorld structure.
** BerryWorld‘s Sapphire raspberries for Marks & Spencer won ‘Fresh Produce – Fruit title’ at the Quality Food Awards 2015. Tesco Finest Berry Selection, which includes BerryWorld proprietary varieties, Sweet Eve strawberries, Jewel raspberries and Black Magic blackberries, won ‘Fresh Produce – Seasonal Produce’ Award.
**Vitalberry BV won ‘Best Product of the Year’ in Holland with its Sweet Eve strawberries in 2014 and was a finalist for ‘Product of the Year 2015’ with Sweet Eve raspberries.
**PrepWorld won ‘Best Fruit Product’ at The Grocer Own Label Food and Drink Awards 2015 for its Tesco Berry Medley 240g line.