Jupiter Group, the UK fruit supplier to major supermarkets, has gone into administration after succumbing to challenges around supply chains and rising input costs.

Tim Bateson and Chris Pole from Interpath Advisory in London were appointed joint administrators for the business, based in Newport in the central English county of Shropshire, on 5 September. The majority of the 85 employees at Jupiter have been made redundant, while a “small number” have been retained to assist with the administration process.

Jupiter, which trades as Jupiter Marketing, employed the services of accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in its 2020 financial year to undergo a “refinancing process”, which was completed in March of this year. In accounts filed with Companies House in April, the company cited a “challenging financial performance and weakened cash flow position”.

“Following a recent refinance, the company has subsequently faced a challenging commercial period with cost inflation in all its operating regions, as well as dramatic rises in shipping costs and localised supply-chain challenges,” Interpath Advisory said in a statement provided to Just Food. “As a result, the directors of the UK entity took the difficult decision to file for administration.”

Founded in 2002 by husband-and-wife team Mark and Yvonne Tweddle, Jupiter moved to become not only a fruit distributor but a cultivator in 2019 following the acquisition of South Africa’s Bonaire the previous year. The business also bought Netherlands-based Cool Fresh International in 2019, a deal that included the logistics division Saphir and the commercial operation AgroMarketing Cool Fresh Espana, based in Valencia, Spain.

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Bateson, a director at Interpath Advisor, said: “Unfortunately, following new investment in March this year, the business has faced a number of geopolitical and economic challenges which has ultimately led to its downfall. Our immediate priority is to support all employees affected by redundancy with the information they require to make claims from the Redundancy Payments Office.”

As part of the administration process, Interpath Advisory has invited parties interested in acquiring Jupiter’s assets, which include a subsidiary in Chile, to come forward.

Jupiter supplies discount retailer Lidl, according to its website. It supplies a “number of UK supermarkets”, Interpath Advisory said, with the Eurofruit publication also naming Tesco and Asda.

In Jupiter’s latest accounts filed with London-based Companies House, the business reported a turnover of GBP97.9m (US$112.3m) in the year to 29 September 2020, up from GBP72.2m in the previous 12 months.

Operating profit dropped to GBP2.7m, from GBP3.9m. Net profit was relatively flat at GBP2.2m versus GBP2.1m.

However, the gross margin plummeted to 1% from 12% in 2019.

In those same accounts, Jupiter explained the key reasons for the margin decline were associated with Covid-19, which amounted to lost sales of GBP35m.

Namely, “the effects from the China markets”, which impacted the US and Europe from February 2019. And also “port closures in Chile and India meant seasons that were fully planned were cut short, affecting sales” to the US, UAE, the UK and Europe.

At the time, current liabilities were listed as GBP29m, with operating cash flow amounting to GBP7.1m.

Jupiter noted “most” of its fruit is sourced from outside the UK and European Union. It added in the accounts statement with respect to Brexit: “Whilst there are commercial, operational and legal impacts from the UK’s exit from the EU, and following the end of the transitional agreement, the directors believe that by having operations in both the UK and the Netherlands, the business is largely protected from any severe impact.”