U.K. company makes mark on global dried fruit crisp market
A U.K. farmer has taken on a venture sell a healthier alternative to traditional packets of potato crisps (chips), and is cashing in across a range of international markets.
Perry Court Farm lies in the luscious Kent countryside in southwest England and has been growing fruit and vegetables for three generations. Owned by the Fermor family, the focus these days centers on the dried fruit crisp market, which has witnessed a growing consumption trend, particularly in countries where apples are a favored fruit.
After finishing university, Charlie Fermor wanted to bring something new and innovative to his family business and after toying with a few ideas, he came up with the country's only air-dried fruit flavored crisps made from hand-picked Cox, Orange Pippin, Laxton's Fortune and Ribstone Pippin apple varieties, as well as pears.
Using a high-tech machine – a remodeled prune dryer bought from the U.S. – tons of apples and pears are slow-dried in a long process that controls temperatures, amongst other factors, with the end result being a perfect low-fat fruit crisp.
They are then packaged quickly to prolong the shelf-life and seal in the 'goodness', said Fermor.
"The fruits come into the factory after being freshly harvested from the orchards. They are washed, cored, sliced up and are ready to go into large drying trays," Fermor told www.freshfruitportal.com.
"There are of course lots of little tricks that go on inside the machine that I can’t describe in too much detail, because that would be giving it away.
"Needless to say the temperature, moisture and humidity levels are constantly monitored and the fruit goes in wet and comes out perfectly dry and delicious."
Two (metric) tons of apples can produce more than 14,400 packets of crisps.
2014 signals major growth for the farm and factory with the Kent farmers planning to venture into the Brazilian market, having just signed a deal to supply a supermarket chain there.
The farm already has well-established export agreements in China, Australia, Iceland, Italy and Dubai, and with the new partnership in South America, the Fermors are looking to expand both growing capacity and factory operations to keep up with demand.
The farm dispatches 'one big order' to China every few months which is shipped out of Southampton in the U.K. to Beijing.
"Every country I deal with is different. In China, for instance, there is a lot of paperwork to be considered. The product has to go into quarantine for one month then is monitored for another month before it is allowed to be sold," Fermor said.
"There’s a long shelf life on our product anyway so this doesn’t really matter but it demonstrates how different countries deal with imports. China is constantly changing and updating rules, so I have to keep on top of them.
"Exporting to China has taught me a lot and then I’ve started to open up new markets elsewhere, like in South America recently."
He added that the Middle East was another big market, particularly Dubai where demand for healthy snacks is increasing.
"Generally speaking, there is an international demand for British products and I export pretty serious volumes.
"We’ve got major plans to expand and are looking at building a new factory to cope with demand but I really need to see how the year goes. Luckily we have plenty of fruit on the farm and the yields are always good."