There appears to be no end to the innovative ideas of the South African growers and exporters, with the industry now targeting the gastronomic world with edible flowers.
This initiative is undertaken by Yukon, the leader in export speciality vegetables from South Africa and Pico-Gro, a producer of edible flowers and micro-cress.
“Edible flowers are used in gastronomy to bring vibrancy and colour to dishes in good restaurants, such as salads and desserts,” says Hans Muylaert-Gelein, chief executive of Yukon. “This is not new and chefs have used a range of edible flowers from the garden. However now we can offer a wider range and a year-round availability.”
Muylaert-Gelein says South Africa has excellent airfreight infrastructure and the products can be delivered to most customers within 24 hours.
“Our customers are typically where there are good restaurants," he continues. "This of course includes Europe and the UK, but we have a good business in South Africa, the Middle East, Hong Kong and Singapore. I would say about 70 per cent of our sales are still in Europe and 30 per cent in rest of world. But the key is that our customers are actually chefs or ‘would-be’ chefs at home. They are looking for excitement and theatre," he says.
“In retailers you now see the flowers entering in the salad bowls to add colour to an otherwise green and boring wall. When you shop next, just look how green a salad aisle in a supermarket actually is,” says Muylaert-Gelein, who adds that customers have been very excited about the initiative. “Our sales have doubled every year for the last four years as we introduce new products, the season is extended and we reach out to new customers.”
Erika Oberholzer, owner of Pico-Gro explains: “Our story started in 1995 and today our picturesque Pico-Gro covers 8ha of landscape in Midrand in Gauteng – with a ‘riot’ of effervescent colourful blooms. Add to this our newest affiliate Herbika Farms in Bapsfontein not far away, and you have a magnificent success story employing a total of 156 people exporting our flowerful produce to the world.”
Pico-Gro’s niche and luxury products are available year-round, though some ranges change within the category because of seasonality. The range now consists of more than 100 different products.
Innovation is the company’s strength, according to Oberholzer. “We now consider ourselves as world leaders in the development of our edible flower ranges. We use environmental manipulation techniques to extend seasons and produce rare and atypical flower and leaf colours in our products to ensure a unique and constantly changing appeal. We also offer a range of speciality leaves and indigenous forage foods from Africa and around the world. Our product development team is constantly scouring the world arena for new and remarkable varieties to add to our extensive, appealing availability list.”
It looks like ‘dazzling with flowers’ is another marketing theme for South African fresh produce which will keep it in the forefront of vegetable exports in the world.