Nutrano Produce Group says while it is proud of the solid position it has built in the banana industry, it still has aspirations to grow.
The company is comprised of four core operating activities; bananas, citrus, tropical fruits and blueberries. Chief Executive Officer George Haggar says that bananas are a core part of the business, and the diversity of its growing base has become an important way to assure its supply to its customers.
"We have some interesting plans in the pipeline about how we want to connect strategically with our grower base to make sure that the supply chain all the way to the consumer is as good as it needs to be," Mr Haggar said. "We are a business that has aspirations to grow in bananas. We are proud of the base we have, but we see opportunities for us to be bigger, and more relevant across the whole sector."
Photo: George Haggar, Anthony Zecchinati, Ashlee Kilmartin and Chaise Pensini
Mr Haggar says that it is important for Nutrano to invest in the supply chain to lift standards; from growing to post harvest regimes, and how ripening and logistics work in with its customers. He admits that the notion of corporate banana farmers competing with family farmers does not feel right, and Nutrano would rather be working with "passionate families", who have plenty of experience in the industry.
"Along with citrus, bananas are the two larger divisions within our group," he said. "We currently source bananas from many growers across all of the growing regions in North Queensland and New South Wales. We don't grow bananas ourselves. We have a view that we will be better off forging ahead with strategic alliances with growers who have a passion for the industry. We have a healthy mix of supermarket customers and also service many independent retailers through the wholesale channels."
The company sees itself as a national banana enterprise, with operations throughout the Eastern Seaboard of Australia, and alliances in other states. Mr Haggar points out that each of Nutrano’s four core produce categories, requires a very different strategy.
"The way I will engage the citrus team, relative to the tropical fruit team, relative to the banana team, is very much specific to what the drivers are in that particular industry," he said. "What are the key consumer insights? What are our customers thinking and what do they need from us? How does the supply chain need to react to that? Market driven insights are the cornerstone of how we build strategy."
He also explains that companies must be in it for the long term.
"This the type of industry where not being able to sustain investment in research and development, or infrastructure, you have a risk of being caught out," Mr Haggar said. "Potentially then the direction you are heading is not a sustainable one, and we are trying to really think about that with a long game in mind."
Nutrano was a supporter of the Australian Banana Industry Congress on the Gold Coast, and acknowledged the organisers of the event for featuring a good mix of speakers, attendees and the whole of the banana supply chain was represented, in collaborating and sharing information. Banana production this year has provided some challenges for the industry as a whole.
"Every banana season is a saw-tooth in some shape or form - and this year has been no different," Mr Haggar said. "The dynamics of demand and supply, the impact of weather, rain or wind - we continue to battle those conditions. I think every year, though, you get better at communicating and you get better at reacting to the challenges that get thrown at you. But we go into a winter cycle now where we will face different challenges."
Nutrano has consistent supply throughout the year, engaging with a core grower base daily. Mr Haggar says investments have recently been made to improve resources surrounding quality and technical aspects in the field.