UK fruit grower, Chambers, launched The Fruitery in March 2019 becoming the first specialist fruit grower to have invested in its own prepared fruit facility.
Rupert Carter, Group Technical Director at The Fruitery explains that the idea behind The Fruitery concept was to allow Chambers to diversify, to meet the growing demand for prepared berries (health convenience, new snacking guidelines etc) and to build on the business’ trusted rapport with the multiples, “Our strength is the speed through the chain, having Chambers behind us and the closeness to the production areas and packing facilities means the shelf life can be extended by two days as well as reducing food miles, 100% traceability and assured provenance which meets the expectations of the multiples."
Chambers also has the ability to deliver a year-round supply courtesy of the business’ established partner growers and also via Chambers stock being grown on partner farms.
At the moment The Fruitery packs under customer labels for the food service and on-the-go prepared markets, but Rupert sees the possibility to pack under The Fruitery brand in the future, “Its important to build the core business first, we need to walk before we run, but there is scope for the future.”
The company packs mostly berries, either separately or in berry medley packs for the retailers.
This season the berry production has been good, and this is a very busy time as all of the different berries are being harvested just now. Strawberries are being picked, cherries and blueberries have just started while the first and second raspberry crops are also being picked.
“Demand is good, and the overall trend is positive,” according to Rupert. “Most retailers will be happy with the weather and sales. There has been a bit of a split in weather conditions in the country though with the south seeing a lot more hot, sunny days that further north.
“Our labour situation is good, we have just about enough people to pick the berries, at this time in the season we could always do with some more, but we have all the workers that we anticipated and a very good returnee rate. We also have some Ukrainians from the government scheme and would like to continue this next year. At the moment it is difficult to anticipate what will happen next year when there are so many variables.”
The Fruitery is also looking further afield for markets and although 95% of production will go to the domestic market, they will be exporting some fruit to Europe this season. “We have exported in the past and are building on the relationships we have with our partners. The markets are changing, and we need to keep on top if it. The changing climate is also playing a part as Europe is experiencing hotter temperatures and areas which traditionally produced soft fruit may find this challenging in the future. This may provide a gap which UK fruit can fill.”
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