Campaign seeks to position South Africa as the most sustainable Southern Hemisphere stonefruit supplier

The South African stonefruit industry is launching a new UK campaign in January aimed at both increasing visibility of its products to consumers and restoring trade confidence in the country as a primary Southern Hemisphere source.

RSA stonefruit

It will feature wide-ranging in-store activities over the coming months to ensure South African stonefruit stands out on shelf, with a particular focus on encouraging purchase of ripe-and-ready ranges in secondary retailers as well as primary ones.

It form part of the Beautiful Country, Beautiful Fruit campaign, which was launched in 2009 with a pilot campaign on plums, rolled out to peaches and nectarines the following year and has run since then in UK retailers, the media and on social media.

Industry body Hortgro said its overall goal is to “position South Africa as the most sustainable Southern Hemisphere stonefruit supplier, highlight the exceptional taste credentials of the products, and restore trade confidence in South Africa as a reliable, high-quality primary source”.

Consumer activity includes on-pack labels across Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Costco stores, featuring a competition to win a two-week holiday to South Africa. There will also be social media activity on LinkedIn, influencer collaboration and consumer PR with three bespoke recipes created by leading South African chef Reuben Riffel that will appear in Hello! Magazine in March 2024.

The campaign also aims to underline why the trade should view South Africa as its preferred stonefruit supplier, making the social and environmental case for the country. South Africa is the closest Southern Hemisphere supplier to the UK market and the majority of its stonefruit exports are shipped to the UK rather than flown, significantly reducing the industry’s carbon footprint.

“We have an extensive value chain and give work to more than 68,000 people, who have an additional 273,000 dependents that rely on our industry,” said Jacques du Preez, general manager of trade and market at Hortgro. “Our fruit is sustainably produced, and we subscribe to strict auditing standards such as Siza, GlobalGAP and others.”

For the new season, growers report good production conditions, with ideal levels of rainfall and sunshine leading to exceptional crop taste and colour.

To deepen understanding of South African production standards, a trade press trip is taking place in January 2024, giving producers the opportunity to showcase their orchards and packhouses, sustainability and social work, as well as the different varieties and taste credentials of their fruit.

In 2022, South Africa exported a total of some 3.4m cartons of nectarines, 2.4m cartons of plums and 795,000 cartons of peaches to the UK. Early season estimates are for an 18 per cent increase in nectarines, with peach and plum volumes set to remain relatively stable.

At the production level, nectarine volumes have increased substantially, with the 2,776ha planted in 2022 representing a 20 per cent increase on the previous year. Plum volumes have remained relatively stable at 5,465ha despite industry consolidation and poor returns to growers over the past two seasons. Peach production is down 214ha year on year at 5,281ha.

South Africa’s stonefruit season runs from November through to May. Peaches and nectarine November-May and Plums January-May.