Grape JV in China aims to add value to category - FreshFruitPortal.com

Chinese JV aims to add value to seedless grape category

Hochfeld International, the international trading arm of UK-based Richard Hochfeld Group (RHG), has signed a joint venture agreement with Zhuang ‘an, a fruit packer and distributor based in Jiaxing, China.

A packing operation for seedless grapes has been established in the northern Chinese city of Jiaxing. It has been registered as Jiaxing Hi Fruit Import & Export Co. Ltd, but will be referred to as Hi Fruit, in short.

Hochfeld International has been exporting seedless grapes from its partner farms in the southern hemisphere for the last four seasons.

“We’ve developed excellent customer relationships in China during that time,” said Martin O’Sullivan, RHG’s director of business development. “We had been supplying Zhuang with grapes and they were very interested in our expertise in packing fruit.”

RHG will install a new line in the Hi Fruit packhouse, working alongside long-standing partner Marco, which supplies packhouse productivity management solutions.

“We will help to build the JV’s output by providing a line to increase the capability of the team in China, while we supply them with seedless grapes from around the world. It will then be Zhuang ‘an’s responsibility as part of the JV to sell the grapes into Chinese supermarket customers,” said O’Sullivan.

He said the companies' key objective is to add value to the product they supply to China, adding that the seedless grape category in the country is "relatively underdeveloped".

"Consumers like high-coloured, premium fruit, but awareness of the range of varieties doesn’t widely exist yet. But it is an innovative category and by packing the product to a high hygiene standard, Hi Fruit will aim to increase the potential to sell the value proposition of seedless grapes and move away from them being sold as a commodity," he said.

O’Sullivan added that RHG is confident that it can educate consumers in China on what each variety will give them, as it has done in the UK.

“We envisage that this venture will enable us to significantly increase our sales of seedless grapes in China," he said. "At the moment there is a limited, but growing market for packed seedless grapes, but in doing this, we’re opening up market access to China for a greater proportion of our product."

Chen Jianmin, chairman of Zhuang 'an, said: “For the successful establishment of Jiaxing Hi Fruit Import & Export Co., Ltd., I would like to express my deep gratitude to Managing Director Alan Guindi, and all the staff of Richard Hochfeld Group for their great help.

“Zhuang ‘an has been involved in the cultivation, procurement and sales of fresh, safe fruit and vegetables for more than 10 years and we have been well received by farmers, recognised by customers and supported by our government.

“This JV with RHG will bring the highest quality and most advanced packing line to China and enable us to better serve our customer base in the Chinese market, which includes Yum (KFC and Pizza Hut), Metro, LinHua Supermarket and Dingdong ecommerce, amongst others. We believe that our collaboration will be have a great success.”

Hochfeld International will continue to directly supply its other wholesale and retail customers in China with loose seedless grapes and other products.