Wholesale and import business WT Hill & Sons Imports has begun exports of branded British cherries to Spain and Dubai.
The Western International-based company now supplies the Blackbird brand, owned by Kent grower GH Dean, and its own newly-developed brand Orchard Hill, to Barcelona wholesale market Mercabarna, and to retail chain Spinneys in Dubai.
The new deals were designed to find a new route to market for British cherries in the premium non retail market, according to WT Hill’s William Hill, and to take advantage of the weakened sterling to set up new export links.
Orchard Hill branded fruit is grown in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, Hill said, while Blackbird fruit originates in Kent.
“We saw the opportunity to buy and create a brand to represent these growers overseas when the UK is in season, Spain has finished, and just before the US season begins.
“As Mercabarna distributes across Spain, with one customer our brand is now available across the country,” he said.
Exports of the new brands began during this British season, with the last delivery expected around 24 August.
Dubai retailer Spinneys received around one to two pallets of Orchard Hill-branded cherry punnets a week during the first season, Hill continued, delivered through the Spinneys-owned UK distributor JHF Limited.
Hill said he expects volumes to Dubai to increase next year, with the possibility of the retailer choosing own-brand packaging.
“Cherry is still luxury enough to make it an interesting export. It is very high-value when the quality is good. The UK market has become more demanding for cherry, so more people are growing it. But all that fruit will need a market," he said.
Hill said he hopes to build a successful exports presence in western Europe, particularly in Spain and Portugal where there would be less competition from competing cherry producers Turkey and Greece, he said.
“Germany and northern Europe were hit by frosts this year so that has given us a bit more of a window. Hopefully we can start to build this up. We will never have the volumes that the USA has, but we’ve got the better product in my opinion.”