Growing Australia's tropical fruit category through increased market opportunities

A Brisbane based tropical fruit marketing company is bringing growers together, in an attempt to access markets which an individual grower would find difficult to secure.

Tropical Fruit Direct Pty Ltd (TFD) is a joint venture between a traditional market agent (J.E.Tipper) and a grower (Skybury). CEO Steve Barnes says the company is very much focused on business-to-business (B2B) sales; and selling produce to retailers and wholesalers direct, rather than consumers.

"TFD is about reducing the uncertainty which growers have traditionally encountered in the market agent model," he said. "It was born out of a mutual desire to improve collaboration between agent and growers. Particularly for JE Tipper; it is part of a concerted effort to move away from the traditional transactional model of selling fruit by providing growers with transparency around price and access to retail markets to sustain growth in tropical produce. We provide a clear line of sight with a variety of markets and provide the grower with certainty around pricing and costs."

The company supplies tropical fruit from papaya to persimmons, lychees, mangoes, passion fruit and dragon fruit, and Mr Barnes says it brings several growers together to sustain supply levels and provide retailers with greater certainty around availability, seasonality and quality.

"We do not limit ourselves to growers from particular locations, but instead partner with farmers who can collectively provide a critical mass of supply," Mr Barnes said. "Growing through the combined efforts of the farmer, marketing agents, retailers and independents. The COVID-19 crisis has really shone a light on the health benefits and nutritional value of fresh fruit and consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with the authenticity of the produce that they consume. The tropical fruit category is driven by Australian growers and hopefully, the consumer will place greater importance of sourcing their fresh produce from our farmers."

Photo: Skybury General Manager Candy MacLaughlin

He added that it is TFD's belief that tropical fruit (beyond categories such as bananas and avocado) are all specialised, and the tropical categories are under-represented, especially in retail stores.

"TFD sees a real opportunity to galvanise these categories amongst wholesalers and retailers and make them a mainstay of the fresh produce landscape," he said. "In turn, this will provide our growers with access to new markets and diversify their income streams. Having established a business modal that works, we will also look for opportunities beyond the tropical category as well."

Mr Barnes says that the company's aim was to build and deliver a business model which places growers at the centre of what it does, particularly, providing transparency, strong communication and support to growers to become the best that they can be.

"We assist growers to access new markets, diversify income streams and deliver true value to allow them to sustainably grow their own businesses," Mr Barnes said. "Through targeted marketing, we link the consumer to our growers to recognise and celebrate what they do and drive demand for their produce. Fundamentally, we aim to be recognised by growers, retailers and wholesalers as balancing the needs of those retailing fresh produce with the challenges of growing fresh produce, so that all parties are successful and sustainable. We are also able to provide supply chain solutions, technical advisory support, storage and logistics and ripening facilities, all within a transparent and competitive cost structure."

While Mr Barnes is conscious that there are a number of companies that provide similar services, he says that TFD has a passion for bringing growers together so that they can have a real voice in the marketplace, through a collective critical mass of supply.

"We are also focussing on the tropical categories which have traditionally been misunderstood by retailers," he said. "We aim to ‘de-risk’ the tropical categories through the continuation of supply, quality, retailer education and consumer marketing to ensure this wonderful produce is given the attention it deserves."

For more information
Steve Barnes
Tropical Fruit Direct
Phone: +61 435 054 528

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