New Fruit Show conference set to help growers grow

After several successful small seminars at the annual National Fruit Show, the Marden Fruit Show Society is offering the fruit industry a free two-day conference as part of the new-look Show.

Sarah Calcutt, Chairman said: “The fruit growing industry have long debated the need to increase market share, to this end the National Fruit Show will host a number of key speakers who between them have expertise, knowledge and an understanding of our industry. Growers no longer just produce crops, they have to have an awareness of innovation, recruitment, strategic planning, legislation and above all marketing.”

Land and Countryside law specialists Whitehead Monkton will be sponsoring the conference and believe that providing speakers who will inform and motivate growers to look outside their own industry for inspiration. Marsha Marriner, property specialist for the company said: “Many of our clients are producing some of the country’s finest fruit, both top fruit and soft fruit, with huge commitments to supplying many of the top retailers; hence our participation in the fruit show again this year.”

The keynote speaker on day one will be Professor David Hughes, Emeritus Professor of Food Marketing at Imperial College London. His topic will be “90% of children still do not eat enough fruit – where did we go wrong?”

Professor David Hughes is a non-Executive Director of KGG Limited, Europe’s largest fresh berry business. He is a frequent keynote speaker at major national and international food industry seminars and conferences around the globe. He works closely with food industry firms on the development of marketing strategies, building partnerships in the food industry, and with governments on food policy formulation.

David has hinted that he will be giving growers ideas of how to increase sales of fruit to a younger audience and to focus attention on what currently works in the marketplace. He will emphasise how growers can look at expansion of the pre-prepared sector and current fresh fruit trends.

Miranda Ballard co-founded Muddy Boots Real Foods Ltd with her husband Roland in 2008. The company started as a small business taking their gourmet burgers to local farmer’s markets. Their dream was to make their product accessible to more consumers and to also raise brand awareness. Just four years later they have a successful business with their products now in a large number of Waitrose and Budgens stores. Miranda will be talking about her own experiences in creating and building a brand with an emphasis on the similarities between Muddy Boots’ products and the fruit sector.

Miranda says: “Even though I am coming from beef, I am excited to talk about taking any food product and making it a brand. I will talk about the strength and value of having a brand. Supplying own label is great but you are not in a very strong bargaining position. You need to offer supermarkets something more – you need to look at the value you can add to the product, to get it through the door in the first place and then stay there. People will buy into a successful brand.”

Andrew Gage is a Nuffield Farming Scholar whose report Failure to prepare is preparation for failure was written as a result of his own experiences on the family farm in Suffolk. Andrew has produced a no-nonsense report on diversification with case studies from around the world. Andrew has done all the hard work for any farmer who is considering branching out in to new areas and has highlighted the importance of planning and understanding your market. It was only after he had completed his research for the report that the penny dropped and he started to apply what he had learnt to his own business, which has gone from strength to strength.

Peter Reeves makes award winning apple juice, Arena Gold on his farm in Ticehurst. As a fruit grower he was faced with a difficult decision a few years ago and like many smaller producers diversified. Peter already had a successful secondary business, Arena Pursuits catering for the corporate entertainment, team building and outdoor activity market. He has built this business over the past 20 years and is now a market leader in the South East. Taking the same business and marketing principles he launched Arena Gold Apple Juice and Arena Black, a blend of apple and blackcurrant. Peter will talk about launching a product into a saturated market. “It is very hard work,” he says. “My advice would be: just try to concentrate on what you are good at. Don’t try to be master of all.”

Whilst marketing is crucial for any business to develop, it is essential for fruit growers to work with a number of professionals to understand the legalities of expanding their business.

Four members of the Whitehead Monckton rural team will speak at the conference: Vicky Stoodley, who specialises in all aspects of planning law; Neil Emery, who advises on employment law; and Janet Goode and Daniel Tozer, both dealing with all aspects of corporate and business law.

Nick Brandreth, a Chartered Surveyor for Lambert & Foster has worked with high profile growers on expansion and planning legalities. His recent experience with AC Goatham and Sons has given him first hand knowledge of the possibilities for the top fruit sector to develop given the correct guidance and assistance.

Day two will begin with Henke Neutboom from Verbeeks, a nursery based in Holland, Henke will be tackling the subject of ‘how to build an apple tree’. The company is seen as one of the leading nurseries for commercial fruit trees and Henke will talk about the various stages required to produce first class trees for a competitive market.

The conference will end with sessions from Janny MT a French based company and STS Refrigeration from the UK. Both will talk about the importance of storage technology to ensure the future of the industry. Both companies are pioneering new innovation and are looking to deliver solutions for both small and large UK growers.

Each morning, prior to the formal conference sessions, there will be a 45 minute NRoSO briefing co-presented by ADAS (the Say no to Drift campaign) and Alan Dunn of NP Seymour. This session is also free of charge and a complimentary breakfast will be served to all attendees.

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