9. FRUIT GROWER/SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR
sponsored by international water solutions
Recognising the outstanding fruit grower of 2019.
1. Blue Skies
2018 saw a resurgence for Blue Skies following a tough 2017 and continued uncertainly around Brexit. In 2018, Blue Skies looked to establish three new strategic pillars in order to ensure our sustainability, whilst upholding our high-quality standards and consistency of supply.
Our business focused primarily on three core pillars:
1) To protect and grow our core accounts
2) Expand into new territories
3) Launch products in new categories
In the first pillar, we provided a comprehensive category analysis for all our customers, delivered ongoing high service levels of over 98%, maintained our award-winning fruit quality and managed to grow sales by 9%.
We have also continued to excel in the sustainability arena. For example, we made efforts to reduce our environmental footprint by cutting our use of plastics by 24 tonnes a year simply by removing plastic sporks. We also published ten sustainability commitments as part of our ‘Blueprint’, and we funded our 100th project with the Blue Skies Foundation, which aims to support communities where our fruit is produced in Ghana, Senegal, South Africa and Egypt.
In the second pillar we made significant steps towards entering the USA and UAE markets and launched branded juices in Brazil and Egypt.
In the third pillar, we launched our first dairy-free ice-creams and developed a new range of fresh-fruit ice lollies.
We achieved this in an exceptionally turbulent time, and with significant deflationary pressures, yet Blue Skies still managed to increase its turnover, remain profitable and strengthen its foundations for future growth.
Chambers specialises in raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, cherry and blueberry production.
The business has extended its supply capabilities outside of the domestic growing season by growing its plants at overseas farms located in Iberia, Poland, Peru and Bulgaria. In addition, Chambers has linked up with like-minded growers around the world to enable a year-round seamless supply of high-quality fresh berries. Whether grown in the UK or overseas, the business delivers the very best, freshest berries direct from the grower supported by good stock monitoring, rigorous quality control, and modern storage facilities.
Chambers also handles the packing and transportation using its own (BRC (AA+) graded, Soil Association-approved) packhouse and a fleet of refrigerated vehicles to meet ‘same day’ delivery requirements. By providing a speedy picking-to-packhouse process, the customer is guaranteed fresher fruit, with an extended shelf life and lower carbon footprint. Consequently, Chambers has built an established and trusted rapport with the major multiples.
In 2019 Chambers became the first UK specialist fruit grower to invest in its own prepared fruit operation with the launch of The Fruitery. The £2m state-of-the-art high-care facility enables the supply of a retailer own-label berry medley product to the multiples and foodservice outlets. By accessing Chambers’ lean supply chain, it represents a berry pot with an extended shelf life of up to two days. Chambers remains at the cutting edge of research into experimental new varieties destined for commercial production. Tim Chambers is chairman of The Rubus Breeding Consortium.