Gareth Edgecombe - T&G Global

“In building our business for the future, we’ve identified significant global growth opportunities"

T&G Global is one of the largest growers of fresh produce in New Zealand, and the largest exporter of apples to the world – responsible for a third of the country’s annual crop.

With a clear vision to become the world’s leading premium fresh produce company, T&G is focused on growing its apples and New Zealand businesses, and building new emerging global categories. The categories identified are blueberries and table grapes.

“In building our business for the future, we’ve identified significant global growth opportunities by leveraging our vertical business model into these two new categories.

“In apples, our vertical business is underpinned by superior genetics, strong growing partnerships and frameworks across the globe, and in-market presence with strong premium brands and retailer programs,” explains CEO Gareth Edgecombe.

“To build that in blueberries, we are putting the framework together which involves a partnership with science organisation, Plant & Food Research New Zealand. They’re working on a breeding programme which will produce new varieties of blueberries with improved yield and resistance to disease, and which will be larger in size, tastier and available for a longer season. The first new commercial varieties could be launched globally within the next 12 months.” The official announcement was made last week at Fruit Logisitca in Berlin.

“This partnership allows us to have superior genetics which we can grow and add to our selling program. We have also formed a partnership with CarSol Fruit Export, who we’ve been working with for a few years. We will now turn our trading relationship into a global strategic partnership by working with them to plant significant volumes of high quality blueberries in Latin America, Chile, Peru and Portugal. By leveraging our sales and marketing expertise and established network in Asia, together we will increase blueberry sales into Asian markets.”

This is a joint venture on a large scale which is going to roll out over the next few years.

T&G’s Director Category and Marketing Jodi Reddell says the blueberries will be marketed under T&G’s premium Orchard Rd brand.

“Orchard Rd has had very good success in Australia, and we are looking to replicate that in Asia to give us year-round retail presence in blueberries. Initially we will focus on key Asian markets for blueberries and grapes, but will then look beyond that to other markets.”

Gareth Edgecombe said to help unlock T&G’s full potential, the business has evolved from a historical grower exporter model, to now being driven by consumer needs and expectations.

“By understanding consumer and customer needs, we can understand where the specialisation and focus needs to be. We then develop the unique genetics and breeding programmes, harness sustainable and innovative growing practices, and deliver it to customers and consumers via an efficient supply chain.”

“That has been quite a change to our strategy and operating model, and we have had to invest in key markets to bolster our expertise in category management, and sales and operational planning and distribution. We are right in the middle of doing this in the US, China, Vietnam and Singapore, with more markets to come.”

“In China, economic activity has slowed. While online channels remain robust, we are noticing that both the wholesale and retail channels have been disrupted due to low customer numbers and operational constraints in being able to service and process orders. We continue to monitor the situation in China very closely. To balance out the disrupted sales patterns, we are developing alternative sales plans in a range of regions and markets for our New Zealand exports. Our expectation is that by the end of the second financial quarter, we will be trading under regular patterns and this is when the majority of our Envy apple supply becomes available.”

Hot Climate Breeding Programme
The Hot Climate Programme was announced two years ago in Berlin. “T&G, together with Plant & Food Research, the Institute of Agriculture and Food Research Technology and Fruit Futur, has developed a world-class breeding programme, designed specifically to tackle challenges such as sunburn, colour and firmness associated with a warming climate,” says Jodi Reddell.

“We have been testing some of the programme’s apple varieties and have seen some really good results. It’s really exciting. The varieties are great tasting, whereas previously it wouldn’t have been possible to grow great tasting apples in a hot climate. This opens up incredible opportunities for T&G and the wider industry. It’s now a case of deciding how we commercialise them - either through our apple portfolio or by licencing them out through other channels.”

Gareth Edgecombe: “Both of our premium JAZZ and Envy varieties have taken years to get to the scale and market leading position which they are today. While the apple category is becoming very competitive and there’s an increasing array of apples, T&G is energised and focused on the opportunity to build out new varieties.”

T&G launched the snack-sized JAZZ Snackers a couple of years ago and now has an even smaller apple, JAZZ Juniors – a micro JAZZ apple which is about 15mm in diameter and is perfect to fit in the hands of a toddler and in lunchboxes. Part of T&G’s strategy is to use the New Zealand marketplace as a test market to innovate. Following trials in New Zealand, it became the top selling apple in this category and could soon appear on supermarket shelves in international markets in the future.

Gareth Edgecombe: “The JAZZ Junior was partly a reaction to the season last year in New Zealand, which resulted in different size apples. The JAZZ Junior was an opportunity to use consumer insights to maximise what came off the trees and meet consumer demand. It shows that if you understand the consumer opportunity, you can tailor an offer to it and create value.”

Freshmax acquisition
At the end of 2019, T&G entered into an agreement to acquire the domestic fresh produce division of Freshmax New Zealand, which is still pending clearance from the New Zealand Commerce Commission.

Gareth Edgecombe: “This acquisition is fully aligned with our strategy of building a strong New Zealand base which we can leverage to the rest of the world. Our New Zealand business provides consumers in New Zealand and around the world with fresh, safe, sustainable produce all year-round. We work with more than 700 domestic and international growers of fruit and vegetables, including blueberry, citrus and tomatoes, and it also manages 12 market sites.

“Across the sector, we believe the markets business will evolve over the next few years given the operating model is coming under increasing pressure from retailers and large sophisticated growers working directly with each other. The opportunity we see is by expanding and strengthening our New Zealand presence with the Freshmax acquisition, we can deliver better service to growers and customers, provide a platform for an enhanced supply chain, and supply the highest-quality fresh produce to customers year-round.”

For more information:
Belinda Abernethy
T&G Global
Tel: +64 (0) 27 564 7436 

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