In 1997 South African grape growers joined forces and decided to export their grapes themselves under the name EXSA. Now they have 22 growers cultivating 3.5 million packages and marketing directly from all the prominent production areas to retailers, catering companies and wholesalers in Europe, the U.K., Asia and local African markets. At the end of the last South African grape season EXSA-Europe made a video so their customers could meet their new partners in South Africa.
The story of EXSA from ARNO on Vimeo.
The right markets
"When we started no one really knew much about marketing," says one of the directors, Leon Viljoen. "As the company started growing it became more of a challenge to get the grapes to the right markets. That is why we started focusing more on establishing a niche product and on focusing sales in the retail sector. Focusing on consumers also meant developing new varieties, cultivated by IFG, with more taste and a longer shelf life. In addition, we want to grow grapes in a way that our farmers can avoid the use of pesticides as much as possible."
Developing new grape varieties happens in consultation with the consumers, supply chain partners, supermarkets, catering companies and growers. It is a process that can take years. Leon shows the Sweet Sapphir grape, "This grape looks more like a date than a grape to our customers." Under the African sun the growers are not only responsible for the taste and quality of the grapes, but also for the more than 2,500 employees that work primarily on the vineyard. The growers also provide living facilities for a large group of workers. In addition to cultivating under the SEDEX or SIZA social standards, EXSA supports a large number of local initiatives, as well as a local elementary school in Doorns, South Africa, "The next generation is eager to expand EXSA, and to increase both cultivation and sales."
Eventually there will be a QR code on the EXSA grape boxes and consumer packaging with a direct link to this video so consumers can see where the grapes are produced. Next season EXSA Europe will produce similar videos in the other countries where their production takes place, including Egypt. Eventually the goal is to develop a 'meet the grower' link for 52 weeks of the year with each video introducing a different production area where EXSA grapes are packaged.