With the ongoing global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, arguably there has never been a more important time for retailers and producers to work together to promote fruit consumption and to encourage shoppers to pursue a healthy diet both in-store and online.
Here, PBUK speaks exclusively with Hortgro (the South African deciduous fruit growers association) and its UK marketer RED Communications to highlight the many tools that UK retailers can use this season to build sales of South African stone fruit, including peaches, nectarines and plums.
Major Sales Evolution
Sales of South African stone fruit at UK retail have been performing well in recent years, according to Hortgro, and UK retailers can expect a much better volume of fruit to market this season (November to May), thanks to temperate weather conditions that will enable a rebound in plum exports, especially.
“Sales in the UK have been growing for nectarines in particular, seeing a major increasefrom 2019 to 2020,” explains Jacques du Preez, General Manager Trade and Markets at Hortgro. “Peaches are performing consistently well, and after a dip in plum sales last year due to bad weather conditions, this is now set to increase again.”
Stone fruit is popular with shoppers at leading UK supermarket operator Tesco, which
considers South Africa to be a “strong” growing region, comments Oliver Bruton, Buyer of Stone fruit and Top fruit at Tesco, which scooped Hortgro’s 2019-20 Stone Fruit Retailer of the Year Award.
“South Africa is our biggest sourcing region in the Southern Hemisphere,” Bruton notes. “Within our stone fruit range, nectarines and peaches remain consistently popular, with Supersweet plums also performing well. Whether it’s through our own-label Suntrail range or our premium Tesco Supersweet brand, we aim to provide a strong range of stone fruit to suit all budgets.”
Importantly, there are still significant opportunities for all UK retailers to build on the
doubling in sales across South Africa’s stone fruit lines over the past 12 years, adds John Valentine, managing director of RED.
“South African plums have the opportunity to be one of the biggest volume fruit lines of the UK winter season,” Valentine predicts. “This year, we are supporting initiatives to achieve volume sales on plums, whilst encouraging wider listings of South African peaches and nectarine packs. For peaches and nectarines, their growth has been largely in a few retailers so there is an opportunity for all major retailers, whether in the discount or convenience sectors, to enjoy this sales potential.”
In particular, there is a real merchandising opportunity to drive “very large volumes” of
South African plums, peaches and nectarines by consumers efficiently ripening them at home, or retailers selling the fruit as ‘triggered’ or ripe-and-ready to eat.
“We have seen significant sales uplifts in some major retailers for packs of ‘triggered’ or ripe-and-ready-to-eat South African stone fruit,” reveals Valentine. “For those retailers not already listing or featuring these lines there is a major opportunity for incremental sales of this delicious winter fruit.
“In addition, there is a big crop of South African plums [this season], and at a keen price point and featured promotional space this line ‘flies off the shelf’. Compelling price points on plums, in particular, work very well when linked to additional front-of-store space.”
As one of the key winter volume lines, RED advises that South African plums should be allocated prime promotional front-of-store space. Peach and nectarine packs, meanwhile, should be featured as ‘new season’ and of prime eating quality.
“There is still some consumer perception that winter stone fruit is somehow ‘out of season’ when, of course, it is in season for the Southern Hemisphere,” points out Valentine.“Messages in retailer media about ‘New Season South African Stone fruit’ would be powerful to emphasise that these delicious fruits can be enjoyed year-round, not just in the UK summer.”
Collaboration with retailers will be one of the main focuses of this year’s campaign
organised by Hortgro, together with RED. Activities will include: in-store promotions,
advertising and editorial both on retailer websites and in retailer magazines, alongside
social media activity.
“The South African fruit producers invest in a UK marketing campaign and this works best as a team effort and collaboration across all marketing tools and mediums,” says
Valentine. “Retailers should work to their own strengths in communicating with their
customers – they know what the most effective tools are.”
When it comes to marketing the qualities of the fruit, and targeting specific consumer
demographics, retailers are reminded that South African stone fruit is ideal for healthy
children’s snacks but, ultimately, the range is affordable and ideal for any type of consumer that wants to follow a healthy diet and lifestyle.
“Stone fruits provide a healthy delicious snack, and especially for boosting immunity during the coronavirus pandemic,” Valentine notes. “On top of this, they are also very versatile ingredients to use in baking and even cooking in savoury dishes.”
Du Preez is also quick to point out that by buying fruit from South Africa, UK shoppers are helping to create jobs and welfare in a developing country. Additionally, he stresses that the fruit is grown with “world-class agronomy”, and shipped to the UK in “very efficient ships that have minimal carbon impact”.
“The fruit is absolutely delicious and produced in a carbon efficient way by world-class
farmers committed to providing UK consumers with the best fruit available anywhere in the world,” du Preez states. “South African stone fruit is available when European produce isn’t, and it’s packed full of powerful nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, which help to boost your immune system, and are low in fat and calories.
“Although the industry already adheres to the highest international food safety standards, ‘Fruit South Africa’ has developed a set of guidelines to educate the industry on basic hygiene in the workplace, screening and social distancing, in accordance with the latest government stipulations during the pandemic.”
Optimism abounds for this season’s South African stone fruit crop with export increases estimated across the board. Moreover, the logistical challenges posed at the start of the pandemic have been overcome.
Hortgro reports that good winter rainfall levels in most parts of the Western Cape during 2020, together with good winter chill and moderate spring conditions, have contributed to better overall fruit set for all stone fruit commodities.
“Although very early in the season, we are optimistic about the anticipated volumes of
especially plums that is set to normalise,” du Preez reveals. “Plum growers are expecting export volumes to increase by 22 per cent compared to last season, returning to a normal plum export volume. The past two seasons’ volumes were negatively affected by the drought and warm weather during spring.”
Volume-wise, for the 2020/21 season South Africa expects its plum exports to increase by 22 per cent to 10,870,500 cartons, nectarine exports to grow 11 per cent to 5,608,500 cartons, and peach exports to rise by 5 per cent to 2,111,800 cartons.
A number of varieties will be available in UK retail stores, including:
Peaches: Ambercrest®, Spring Princess and Jim Dandy;
Nectarines: Superstar®, Tiffany, and Alpine;
Plums: Fortune, African Delight, Sapphire, Ruby Sun, and Flavor King.