Joint venture shakes up Australian berry category

A leading player in Australia’s strawberry industry, Piñata Farms, and global berry brand, BerryWorld Group, based in the United Kingdom, have established joint venture company, BerryWorld Australia, which will send its first Australian-grown specialty strawberries to market this week.

A leading player in Australia’s strawberry industry, Piñata Farms, and global berry brand, BerryWorld Group, based in the United Kingdom, have established joint venture company, BerryWorld Australia, which will send its first Australian-grown specialty strawberries to market this week.

BerryWorld Group works with a dedicated global grower base to commercialise proprietary berries from its breeding program. It has a presence in multiple retail sectors around the world. Piñata Farms has been selected to exclusively grow and market BerryWorld variety berries in Australia and New Zealand.

BerryWorld Australia managing director, Gavin Scurr, said the joint venture company would produce selected BerryWorld-bred strawberries, raspberries and blackberries under the premium BerryWorld label. The first strawberries will arrive in-store this week with raspberries following in February 2018 and blackberries in 2020.

Mr Scurr said the joint venture realised a long-held ambition for Piñata Farms to enter the premium berry category. Almost all other strawberries grown in Australia are from varieties which are widely available to producers.

Specialty strawberries set the pace for raspberries, blackberries

“We had been actively seeking opportunities to produce exclusive strawberry varieties and diversify into raspberries in Australia for at least eight years when BerryWorld began looking for an established Australian producer partner to develop the brand here. Negotiations began in 2014 and BerryWorld Australia was officially established in 2016,” he said.

“BerryWorld brings superior varieties and extensive sales and marketing experience, based on global berry research and knowledge to the mix. Piñata Farms will identify the varieties which warrant commercialisation here, then grow and market them to Australian consumers.

“Both joint venture partners have been operating for some 25 years and have the same commitment to quality and flavour. It’s a privilege to work with global leaders in the berry category and we’re extremely excited about the possibilities,” he said.

BerryWorld Group chief executive officer, Adam Olins, said after acquiring a foothold in South Africa, BerryWorld saw an opportunity in Australia for better tasting berries and, in Gavin Scurr, a partner with a similar vision.

"We took time investigating potential partners in the Australian market. Piñata Farms is a talented and experienced grower, it has a great reputation in the local market and, on a strategic level, a similar outlook to the BerryWorld business, making it a great choice," Mr Olins said.

"In Piñata Farms, we believe we have everything required for a successful business to flourish. This venture takes the BerryWorld Group into its third continent and expands our global reach beyond Europe and Africa," he said.

Opportunities for third party growers

Mr Scurr said while BerryWorld strawberries would launch with small volumes this winter, he expected to be producing fruit year 'round by 2019.

“As we prove the commercial aspects of the varieties, we will offer third party growers the opportunity to produce berries under contract to BerryWorld Australia. We’ll be looking to fill the October to November and April to May shoulders and will select specific geographic locations to suit winter and summer production.

“This winter, we’ll grow strawberry varieties selected from BerryWorld’s exclusive access to the Edward Vinson breeding program in the United Kingdom and Spain which have superior flavour and appearance attributes. Based on how they are performing in other parts of the world, we’re confident we can deliver brilliant tasting strawberries here too.”

Mr Scurr said the Australian raspberry industry was largely untapped and presented a significant opportunity for BerryWorld Australia to improve consumers’ (often underwhelming) eating experience of Australian raspberries.

“The latest BerryWorld-bred raspberries are making a huge impact around the world for flavour. We see this as an opportunity to give Australian consumers the great tasting and consistently good raspberries many parts of the world already enjoy.

“While we weren’t looking to diversify into blackberries, they came with the joint venture bundle and, as Australia’s blackberry industry is small and under-developed, we’re excited to be part of the industry’s development here.”

Strawberry operations include BerryWorld crop

Owned and operated by Queensland’s Scurr family, Piñata Farms is Australia’s largest pineapple producer, a leading strawberry producer and holds the breeding rights to produce specialty Honey Gold mangoes. It will continue to produce public variety strawberries under the Piñata brand at its Sunshine Coast and Granite Belt farms year 'round. It has been growing strawberries since 2000.

A significant portion of Piñata Farms’ 70-hectare strawberry operation has been reserved to grow BerryWorld strawberries. All BerryWorld Australia lines will be produced under polytunnels to mitigate weather impacts.

“Heat is the enemy of berries. When the plants get too hot, they stress and don’t flower or set fruit. We’re growing European-bred berries under Australian conditions to taste as they do in Europe, so we’ve gone into protected cropping and substrate production, to embrace the future and give our new lines optimal growing conditions,” he said.

Mr Scurr said while flavour was the key objective, BerryWorld Australia would look at strawberry plant performance and yield and measure aspects of varieties objectively to establish if they were appropriate to be profitable and then select varieties accordingly.

BerryWorld Australia announces retail partner

BerryWorld strawberries will be available at Woolworths.

“Our retail partner has seen what we’ve done with Honey Gold mangoes since 2009 and is as excited as we are to offer consumers quality tasting berries,” Mr Scurr said.

This winter, BerryWorld strawberries will be available at selected Queensland stores. However, as production increases, they will also be available in New South Wales and Victoria. They will be available in heat-sealed 350g punnets.

BerryWorld strawberries would be available in the fridge section of Woolworths stores to set them apart as a premium brand, he said.


August 17, 2017

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Posted: Aug 18, 2017