Phil Turnbull, group CEO of a new venture bringing together APAL and Coregeo, is energised about the prospects for branded fresh produce in both Europe and Asia

Phil Turnbull is group CEO of Twenty Degrees

Phil Turnbull is group CEO of Twenty Degrees

Apple & Pear Australia Ltd (APAL) has bold ambitions to grow sales of branded fresh produce around the world following the launch of a new commercial arm called Twenty Degrees.

The new venture is a wholly owned subsidiary of APAL, and its role is to deliver all the industry body’s commercial activities.

That means managing Pink Lady, Tenderstem and a number of other major fruit and vegetable brands globally for APAL.

Over the course of 2024, Coregeo will rebrand as Twenty Degrees UK & Europe. The business currently manages the marketing for Pink Lady in the UK and the Gulf, Tenderstem in the UK, and Bimi in Europe.

Coregeo will continue with all the same staff, delivering all the same activities, but under a new corporate identity.

The aim is for the new venture to combine the marketing expertise and quality management of Coregeo with APAL’s specialist skills in territory management and IP protection.

“It enables us to more simply explain what we do to our clients,” said Phil Turnbull, group chief executive officer of Twenty Degrees.

“People understandably ask: ‘What’s a peak industry body that represents Australian growers doing with a long-stemmed broccoli brand in the UK?’ It’s always been a challenging concept to explain.

“Under the banner of Twenty Degrees, it’s much simpler. Twenty Degrees is a company that brings produce brands to life. We’ll do that for APAL’s IP with Pink Lady, but we’ll also do it for our clients such as Sakata [which owns the IP for Tenderstem/Bimi].”

Opportunities in Asia

As new fresh produce varieties are developed, Turnbull says Twenty Degrees is keen to grow its client base and launch new brands – even if they might take as long as 20 years to establish and develop.

When it comes to Pink Lady, APAL’s biggest fresh produce brand, he sees the greatest potential for sales expansion in emerging markets – namely Southeast Asia, India, China, and the Gulf.

By contrast, Turnbull considers the UK and Europe “mature markets” but stresses they still offer potential for considerable market share growth.

Pink Lady is starting to gain traction in Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan, Turnbull reports. And India “is moving at pace”.

“What’s fascinating about these markets is the speed at which retail is modernising,” he says. “Historically these countries have been dominated by wet markets, which still play an important role, but the retail space is now developing at a rapid pace.

“China also clearly has huge potential. Retail in China is leapfrogging the rest of the world in terms of its capability, convenience, quality, and the way it targets consumers. And there’s a thirst for brands, so we’re well placed for success.

“We can support Chinese retailers in growing and acquiring market share from traditional wet markets.”

Delivering value

In Europe, meanwhile, Turnbull sees strong potential for premium fresh produce brands, even in the context of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

“There’s no doubt that the last two or three years, with Covid followed by the inflationary challenges, have put pressure on premium brands to deliver.

“You’ve really had to make sure you’re offering both quality and value. Value is not necessarily about being cheap; it is about delivering something that’s really worth paying for.

“In the UK, the apple category has contracted. And Pink Lady sales have also contracted, but not to the same extent. So, the brand is outperforming the category.

“Consumers are price-conscious, but they also want something of value. If you buy a cheap apple that gets discarded because it lacks taste, flavour or crunch, that’s not value.”

He added that in the UK, as well as other European markets, retailers are putting a lot of pressure back on the supply chain to keep prices down.

“Creating brands in commodity-driven categories has traditionally been challenging. However, unique IP that genuinely captivates consumers allows us to offer a compelling value proposition. Ultimately, this wow factor builds brand affinity, forming the foundations for customer loyalty that drives repeat purchase.

“When you look at the stable of products and brands we represent, we have a great opportunity to give consumers value, as well as delivering value back to the growers.”