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Stormy Fruit is an innovation that Golden Bay Fruit initiated in order to salvage weather-blemished fruit which otherwise would've gone to waste as it did not meet class 1 fruit standards. Stormy Fruit is a class 2 brand offering nutritious fruit affected by the forces of nature to their consumers at a lower price point. In doing so the innovation therefore helps to solve the following UN SDGs: zero hunger, good health and well-being, decent work and economic growth, and responsible consumption and production.
On boxing day of 2020, the top of New Zealand’s South Island where GBF is based was struck by a freak hail storm which left approximately 50% of their apple crop for the season damaged and therefore did not meet the class one specifications required to be sold to their retailers. Previously the minority of fruit that could not be exported to customers due to blemishes had been put into juice, which GBF runs at a loss, or discarded as waste. This however was no longer a viable option for the large quantity of fruit affected.
To respond to this issue, marketing director Eleni Hogg (who lead the innovation) along with GBF managing director Heath Wilkins, the GBF quality team (who assisted with fruit specifications) and and an external agency (who assisted with artwork and marketing) created a class two fruit brand named Stormy Fruit. The innovation allowed GBF to sell damaged fruit of class two specification to consumers at "a lower price point whilst still making 20 times more profit than if it had been juice fruit” (E. Hogg, personal communication, August 8, 2023). This business model which was put into place in 5 weeks after hail storm has continued in the years following for GBF and made more affordable fruit available to a global selection of markets as well as domestically in New Zealand.
Eleni specified that their innovation contributes solutions to four of the UN SDGs in particular by saying “The innovation contributes to zero hunger as it makes more healthy food available to consumers. It also contributes to good health and wellbeing for this reason." She also detailed how the Stormy Fruit innovation improves work and economic growth as the initiative provided work for more employees and improved efficiency. Higher efficiency is achieved "when people are out in the field picking apples, if only a small portion of the tree is worthwhile picking it’s really time-consuming to go through and only pick class 1. Being able to pick class 1 and class 2 simultaneously increases your efficiency.” Responsible consumption and production are also improved regardless of how much fruit is processed. The packhouse is always running, however, corresponding fixed costs and carbon emissions are associated with this. Stormy Fruit allowed more fruit that would have been wasted to instead be processed and consumed thereby decreasing GBF’s emissions per unit substantially.
Stormy Fruit; Kissed by the Force of Nature.
The motivation to begin Stormy Fruit initially arose from the hail storm as a new solution was immediately required in order for GBF to salvage their damaged crop for the 2020-2021 season. The idea behind the class 2 brand had been considered previously using a similar concept called grumpy fruit which was initially going to target the domestic market in New Zealand. The name and rollout of Stormy Fruit were inspired by GBF’s brand principles of authenticity and transparency. Eleni touched on this saying: “We wanted to go out to the community and say look what’s happened and be really forthcoming with the fact that nature is always going to leave its mark on a range of the fruit.” The hail damage in 2020 resulted in larger than normal damage and “that’s why it really came to the forefront to be a key strategic move that we had to do something with that portion of fruit." This led to a brisk 5-week turnaround to implement the initiative for the upcoming season.
Stormy Fruit is linked to GBF’s purpose as it "empowers growers to prosper which is the founding principle of our company and why we exist." Being able to salvage this fruit and the profit associated with it contributes to their mission to deliver returns back to the growers who work the land as well as nurturing the world with more quality goods and minimizing food waste.
The impact of the innovation was substantial. In the short term scope, Stormy Fruit was able to salvage much of the hail damaged 2020 crop and provide a return for GBF’s growers. Stormy Fruit meant that GBF could retain employees who may have been let go in its absence and provided a good news story for their community. The launch of the innovation mitigated a negative situation by sparking a new business model for GBF with long term benefits. Since salvaging profits in the hail ridden season, Stormy Fruit has continued and will minimise future waste for Golden Bay fruit and hedge against succeeding weather risks.
The low cost has opened up new markets and being able to salvage more fruit means that GBF will continue to improve its efficiency and reduce its per unit carbon footprint into the foreseeable future. Their innovation is scalable and proves to other companies in the fruit industry that there is a market for class 2 fruit. GBF hopes that other companies can adopt similar initiatives to minimise waste and increase the supply of healthy food available to consumers into the foreseeable future.
The Stormy Fruit innovation garnered plenty of great business specific benefits and “evidence of this is available in the numbers,” according to Eleni. They have increased their revenue every season since inception as the fruit which would be juiced or wasted is sold as class two fruit at 20 times the profit. Employees were able to retain their jobs in the short term. From a long term scope, efficiency has improved as it is easier to pick class 1 and 2 apples simultaneously and this enhances employee wellbeing as their jobs are made easier. Since its inception in February of 2021, over 2 million kgs of Stormy Fruit has been exported and customer reception has been great with many repeat orders seen.
The new product has opened up new markets as GBF has seized the opportunity to enter the market and continue it. Eleni noted “The success of Stormy Fruit shows that a lot of the expectations out there that have been put on to us by retailers for perfection actually are not necessarily aligned with consumer expectations.” GBF has learned that their end consumers are actually quite happy, especially in markets such as New Zealand, India, and Taiwan, to consume fruit with imperfections at a lower price point and have been able to take advantage of this.
The Motueka community were all affected by the hail storm and from it stemmed various forms of uncertainty. The Stormy Fruit innovation brought a needed good news story to the region and “people responded well to it because of the authenticity and can do attitude shown,” according to Eleni. This lifted morale. Additional social benefits of the initiative are that it makes more healthy food available at a lower price and is especially suitable for supporting developing countries.
As eluded to, the innovation also brings environmental benefits as it maximises production and minimises waste. “The higher the productivity the better the ratio of the emissions,” stated Eleni and she continued by saying that "any food that’s wasted has a negative environmental impact and so minimising fruit waste is really key. When we pick and process apples and they just get put back into the ground or discarded that is a lot of input for no output.”
In addition to the empirical evidence portraying the environmental and social benefits, Eleni also provided anecdotal evidence that Stormy Fruit has had a positive influence on the world. GBF was a finalist for the Sustainable Business Network’s Good Food award which is given to an organisation changing food processes in order to create benefits for people and the environment. They have also received media attention from Stuff magazine, Radio New Zealand, and Fruitnet.
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Eleni Hogg, Marketing Director
Golden Bay Fruit (GBF) is a fruit growing and exporting company (primarily apples) situated in Motueka New Zealand. GBF was founded by growers in 2008 following the deregulation of the apple industry in 2000 which allowed them to independently market and sell their own fruit. They grow pack and export their fruit providing a direct process from orchard to table. Since its founding, GBF has grown to export to more than 25 countries with four offshore offices, generating annual turnover in the 50-60 million range. During peak season GBF employs 300 orchard employees and an additional 200 across its packhouse and cool stores (Golden Bay Fruit, 2023).