A small group of South African growers last night launched two companies designed to raise the profile of South African fresh produce in international markets. Fruits Unlimited was launched in Cape Town to focus on the export of table grapes and citrus. Partnering with UK fresh fruit & vegetable packager ERMS UK and Lehmann & Troost of the Netherlands, the new company enters the market in the top three South African grape exporters by volume.

Not content with launching one new company, the founders of Fruits Unlimited simultaneously launched Organics Unlimited, a sister company intended to tap the exponential growth of the organic produce industry and meet the growing demand for organic food from the Southern Hemisphere.

The new company said that it was not enough, from the perspective of local growers, to "jump on the organics band wagon," as the cost of marketing products abroad proved prohibitive to farmers. So these farmers have formed their own marketing company that aims not only to secure good outlets for both their conventional and organic products but also secure maximum return to the grower by taking out the unwieldy and costly links in the supplier chain.

As chairman Riel Malan commented: "We're going back to basics." Malan is part of a small management team consisting of five directors. Three of these are farmers in the Western cape, while managing director Leonard Mead brings wide-ranging experience of the produce retail sector and Rupert van der Merwe is a consultant in organic farming.

This experience has enabled the group to secure markets in areas selected for their consistency and reliability, and the company further says it is supplying to the top 5% of retailers in the world consumer market.

Managing director Leonard Mead commented. "We're taking back control […] Up until now we have left the marketing of our products up to others, but we've realised that if we want to get the best returns, keep ahead of trends and keep our customers happy, then we're going to have to do it ourselves. We've also acknowledged that we have to conserve our natural resources which will sustain us in the long term and that is why we have placed such a great emphasis on organic farming which we believe is the only way forward."

Readers interested in finding out more should contact Leonard Mead by email.

leonard@fruitsunltd.co.za