"Tsumaya O Bulele": Maluma South Africa launched for avocado marketing
Production is ramping up for the group's eponymous variety in South Africa, but the new voluntary marketing club may include other cultivars in the future.
With 100% growth in plantings over the last two years in South Africa, Allesbeste Nursery's Maluma variety is in need of a more formalized marketing structure, now established through the entity Maluma South Africa.
Executive director Zander Ernst says even though membership in the group is voluntary, growers that account for 70% of Maluma avocado production in the country have signed up including Afrupro and ZZ2.
Maluma SA (Pty) Ltd was registered in South Africa in January, but the official launch is the result of brainstorming between stakeholders during Allesbeste's 'Maluma Day' earlier this month; an event Ernst emphasized "will not be funded by Maluma SA".
Given the rapid growth in plantings it is difficult to pinpoint expected output this season, but Ernst estimates it to be somewhere between 1,200-2,000 metric tons (MT).
"Maluma has proven to obtain better prices and market preference mostly because of its bigger fruit size, its efficiency in the ripening process and superior colouring to South African Hass," Ernst said in a release.
"Maluma’s other benefits which can still prove to be of high value in the future is its industry-leading seed to flesh ratio, its industry-leading shelf-life and its unique moisture to oil ratio throughout the season.
"In terms of its commercially valuable yield it offers a unique key strategic advantage to the farmer and as a result increases profitability."
He tells Fresh Fruit Portal South African consumers are actually used to buying a second or even third grade avocado, but he hopes to change that through Maluma South Africa.
"If we can establish a good enough demand with this product, it’s not impossible that in time you could sit in a position where you actually market first grade avocados in the local market, and that’s never happened before really," he says.
"We had a situation with a lady who is willing to pay the levies. She got almost 30% more for her Malumas then the regular price - it's a ZAR40 (US$3.13) difference on the carton.
"I don’t want to say the premium is already there but obviously we’ll try and work towards the premium. However, the premium is not the goal in itself. The ultimate goal is just to create a sufficient demand for Maluma into the future."
The Maluma brand and its trademark were registered in 2014 in South Africa, followed by registration in Australia, Peru and the European Union. The name itself comes from the Venda language and translates loosely as something so tasty you "basically bite your lip as you eat".
Maluma SA has branched out in its marketing activities to cater to the South African market, registering the "join the avolution" trademark, while also pitching slogans in the Sotho saying "Tsumaya O Bulele" which Ernst says something between "walk the talk" and "spread the word".
"I think the main advantage of Maluma in the South African market is that people are used to Fuertes; they don’t like Hass for the main reason they don’t trust the product to have quality in the inside, because people wait too long for it on the shelves and also South Africa is also a market for big fruit.
"Suddenly when Maluma came on the market they had a big fruit Hass, and that has quite a big advantage above the other varieties."
ZZ2 general manager Burtie van Zyl does not agree that Malumas necessarily get a premium, claiming prices are "similar or a bit lower", but the cultivar has strong fundamentals.
"In terms of the post-harvest quality we’ve found that it tastes better than Hass," van Zyl says.
"It ripens more evenly and quicker, so if you have 20 fruit they’ll all ripen at the same time and they’ll color nice and black, whereas with Hass they’ll ripen less evenly as a kind of checkerboard.
"We’ve pushed it with some top receivers in Europe and they’ve generally been happy with it, and they want more fruit."
Based on this initial success at the market level, and the fact ZZ2 has found trees can get 20% more volume than Hass on average, van Zyl expects the company to have 200 hectares of the cultivar planted by the end of next year, up from the current 60 hectares.
On a two-year old orchard he says ZZ2 has been able to yield 10MT per hectare, then rising to 18-22MT/ha over the years with a larger size per fruit than Hass.
At ZZ2's oldest Maluma orchard in the warmer Mooketsi area to the north of Tzaneen, van Zyl says trees are bearing 40MT/ha - a level he expects other orchards to reach when they hit the same age.
"The soil here is very well-drained – we have to irrigate twice a day here to make sure we give enough water," he says.
"Maluma seems to do better in the heat than Hass...the yields are better and the sizes of the fruit are also better."
Room for new varieties
As a longer-term project, Ernst says the Maluma brand will likely incorporate new genetics as they develop, in line with the group's philosophy that the avocado industry cannot be complacent with the Hass, Maluma or any other variety.
Ernst says one of the key objectives of the Maluma brand has been to "represent other cultivars that need more awareness to ensure sustainability", and that could apply to older unknown cultivars or more specifically for new genetic material.
"The main advantage being that know-how would then be already established and the intellectual capital of the process involved well secured within as single organisation and its loyal production base," he says.
"A unique fact and key success factor of the future vision of incorporating other cultivars is the fact that Allesbeste is one of the only privately owned and on of a handful of avocado cultivar breeding and selection programs in the world.
"It currently boasts with more than 10 cultivars of high potential and numerous high yielding rootstocks."
The nursery's cultivars in development are highly varied, including black and greenskin varieties. For Zander Ernst's father Dr. Andre Ernst - who founded the nursery - walking around the test plots for these varieties is his version of "Sunday golf", with a great passion for the diversity on display.
In the following video, he gives an explanation of the benefits of just one of these cultivars and insights into spotting early on what leads to good avocado flesh.
A unique intellectual property group
Zander Ernst highlights that unlike most cultivar intellectual property companies, Maluma SA will only manage the cultivar from commercial release onwards as an extension of the cultivar owner,
He says this makes the business cost efficient in the sense Maluma SA will not acquire ownership of the cultivar, as it remains the full property of the owner of the cultivar.
"Maluma SA will therefore not have to source cultivars globally or locally and would not have to incur costs in protecting the intellectual property of plant material, which makes it highly cost-effective.
"Maluma Australia is also in the process of formation and the brand is already in use by Costa and DBC farming with great success.
"The second season of branded fruit is currently being harvested. International collaborations is also a key opportunity in the future, with even more of the avocado producing countries growing in their production of Maluma."