AU: Campaign to save Cascade blackcurrant juice

Westerway Berry Farm in Tasmania is Australia's last commercial blackcurrant grower, but in recent years the blackcurrant market has all but disappeared. A few years ago when Ribena blackcurrant juice started to get a lot of bad press, Westerway's main buyer, Cascade Beverages, was caught in the backlash as blackcurrant juice sales declined steeply and a war was waged against sugary drinks.

But the Tasmanian public are not taking this lying down. Cascade blackcurrant juice had a taste all of its own and the Tasmanian's want it back!

"For 15 years we reliably supplied Cascade (owned by Fosters), grew the varieties they wanted and had regular meetings with them and it was all kind of rosy," explains Richard Clark from the family owned farm in Tasmanian's Derwent Valley. "Then blackcurrant juice started to get bad press, and, to cut a long story short, Cascade Fruit Syrup didn't receive the support it needed to survive this onslaught and over the last 15 years sales have steadily declined.

Then in 2012, after the Fosters Company was purchased by large global brewer SAB Miller, the Australian side of Coca Cola bought/saved the non-alcoholic brands of the Fosters business, which included all the Cascade non-alcoholic brands. But CCA's heart also sadly hasn't been in promoting the Cascade syrups either. With every other farmer now having stopped growing blackcurrants, we are the only ones left. And our harvest has now shrunk from 300,000 tonnes a year to just 50,000 this year, most of which we don't have a market for as Coca Cola have an inventory of juice which according their sales projections will astonishingly last several years."

What also happened is when Coca Cola acquired the Cascade non-alcohol brands, they dropped the old recipe and used their own which is popular globally. Tasmanian's, who grew up on the traditional Cascade blackcurrant taste, didn't like the new recipe as it was much sweeter than what they were used to. As a result, many Tasmanian's stopped buying it. Some went even further. Two Facebook groups actively revolted and started a campaign against the new taste. "Don't Destroy Cascade" almost instantly received 7000 followers, and, when you consider Tasmania only has 500,000 people, that is a fairly big reaction.

"We have been in regular contact with the CEO of Coca Cola, who happens to be Tasmania, so have helped her and Coca Cola Amatil (CCA) to reformulate the blackcurrant juice to make it taste like it used to. So two years ago CCA changed the recipe and it went back to how Tasmanian's like it. People power had prevailed. The problem was that the return to the traditional flavour was not publicised so few people knew about it and Tasmanian have continued to avoid Cascade Blackcurrant Syrup.

Worryingly, we have heard recently that one of the two major Australian retailers has deleted the cascade syrup range nationally, stating lack of shelf space as the reason. But if you look in the stores there are four other blackcurrant products on the shelves, none of which have any Australian fruit in them. Rather these other blackcurrant syrups use all cheap imported fruit due to the general over production of blackcurrants globally - most acutely in Eastern Europe."

On hearing that the retailers are no longer stocking Cascade Blackcurrant syrup, the person who started the Facebook campaign two years ago has just started a new campaign and a petition to get it back on shelves. Within only four days over 1,500 signatures have been received.

This is big news locally and Richard has been contacted by all the local news mediums to get this story out. "Cascade Blackcurrant Syrup is again a great tasting product, with the highest content of real juice in the syrup segment and has a fantastic providence story. But the only way consumers can keep it on the shelves is to demand that retailers stock it. We are the last commercial producer of blackcurrants in Australia and we have been just holding on by our finger nails for years now. We can't hold on much longer. A couple of years and we will no longer be growing blackcurrants commercially and that will be a loss for Australian horticulture."

For more information:
Richard Clark
The Westerway Raspberry Farm
TEl: +61 438 254376

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