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South Africa: Experienced Colors Fruit team puts growers first

The international fresh produce sector is highly competitive. To be successful, South African fruit growers need the backing of a visionary, reliable marketing partner.
Fresh, distinctive branding. Innovative marketing methods. And a constant focus on its loyal growers. It’s rare indeed to encounter an agri-business that has managed to achieve all three equally well. Yet this is what Colors Fruit has had to do since its inception 15 years ago. And it has propelled the company into the front ranks of South Africa’s fruit exporters.

In 2011, Colors Fruit refocused once again – and the decision was made to appoint senior marketing managers to optimise the company’s local and international marketing efforts. Since then, a powerful and enthusiastic team has been assembled from long-standing Colors Fruit employees and new appointees – and it’s a team that is sure to give growers the utmost confidence.

CEO Riaan van Wyk explains: “The world of fresh produce exports changes rapidly. We were determined to go further than providing new strategic thinking. To stay at the cutting edge, we’ve always had an excellent marketing team. The market demands it, and our growers deserve it. And we’ve certainly assembled a top team now.”

Riaan speaks with some authority; in 15 years, his company has helped to change the face of South African fresh fruit export marketing. Christine Hanekom, head of the company’s stone fruit division, confirms the company’s renewed focus.
“Everything is planned and executed with our growers in mind,” she says. “For example, we spend countless hours on ensuring that every container of fruit is delivered to the destination where it will earn the best returns for the grower.” She adds that stone fruit is not an easy product and requires attention to detail. “We work alongside our growers and their fruit every step of the way until it is sold,” she stresses.

Christine, who has been with Colors Fruit for over 10 years, adds that the company strives to ensure that it’s among the top three performers in terms of grower payments. One of the new senior appointees is Niel Smith, previously UK commercial manager for the Capespan Group. He now heads the Colors Fruit apple and pear division, but also has a wealth of experience in other fruits, such as table grapes and citrus.

“Our packing facilities at the Novo packhouse in Paarl, which has been newly re-built with the latest technology, allow us to maximise the whole crop for our growers,” he says. Colors Fruit also has packing facilities for citrus in the Eastern Cape and in the Citrusdal Valley.

Heading the citrus team is Nico Veldsman, who has vast experience in category management in the UK and in southern hemisphere fresh produce procurement.
“At Colors Fruit, we make it our work to know the market and our competitive supply,” he explains.

“Only then can we take the decisions that will help us to optimise sales for our growers. We place a lot of emphasis on developing good relations with quality producers and reacting to the market before the market reacts to us.”

Building relationships
Rosené Matthee, who heads the Colors Fruit table grapes team, says the business is built around long-term relationships with growers and ensuring that the company stays ahead of international trends. With 10 years of experience in the fresh produce business, Rosené knows that growers depend on her and her team to advise them of future plantings and new cultivars. “We are part of the transformation to a better balance between white seedless grapes and red and black seedless varieties which are becoming popular worldwide.”

An integral part of Colors Fruit strategy is a strong focus on Africa and the local market. Stephan Malherbe, who heads this division, explains that most growers need good returns from the local and African markets to remain sustainable. “With our own packaging operations for top fruit, stone fruit and citrus, we are able to plan the local and African marketing programmes optimally,” she explains.

Nicola van der Westhuizen, previously with Dole Africa and now commercial manager for SA and Africa at Colors Fruit, agrees that Africa offers exciting opportunities for growers. “We are working with experienced suppliers into Africa and are also developing our own direct links,” he explains.

Colors Fruit’s marketing infrastructure is truly international, with a network that stretches from Canada to Russia and Japan. With the company’s rejuvenated marketing team, these established global linkages are set to be strengthened – and opportunities for growers are undoubtedly brighter than ever.

For more:
Liezel Kriegler
Tel. +27 21 807 5000

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