Fruit partnership to limit food waste

Hail damage brings together producers and retailer to decrease food waste….

After a decade of little hail damage in the fruit producing areas of Ceres and Langkloof in the Western Cape, the same cannot be said for the past year.

Hail hit the apple and pear orchards multiple times affecting all varieties over the last twelve months, most notably in November 2022 and again in February this year. Because of this, Dutoit and Good Hope Fruit have partnered on a campaign with Pick n Pay to promote the merits of cosmetically-blemished produce.

This “Hail to Heroes” campaign was born from a need to decrease food waste and ensure consistency of apple supplies in Pick n Pay stores.

Don’t judge an apple by its cover

Apples have the ability to repair themselves after suffering superficial indentation caused by the impact of a hard piece of ice.

According to Jaco Jordaan, technical manager at Good Hope Fruit, hail generally only causes cosmetic damage. “The fruit quality and taste of these apples remain perfectly intact, with the exact same nutritional value and delicious taste as those that are not damaged,” he says. 

“The challenge is that when consumers buy fresh produce, they tend to buy with their eyes. An incorrect perception exists that only perfect looking fruit will be delicious and nutritious.

“The truth when it comes to hail damaged fruit is that, although there might be a blemish or slight bruising on the skin, the inside of the apple is unaffected.

“Unlike fruit that is rotten or moldy, hail damaged produce has prominent scar tissue which means the fruit has been able to heal itself. 

“Consumers are used to buying fresh produce based on how it looks. This campaign is a unique opportunity to educate and inform consumers and change this perception over the long term.”

Mitigating risks and supporting farmers

Given the increasing electricity, cooling and packing costs, the fruit industry cannot afford further losses, especially when these hail damaged apples are crunchy, juicy and full of flavour.

Keeping the supply and the price of apples consistent is helping to mitigate the already overwhelming challenges faced by the farming community while also reducing food waste.

Hail to Heroes also creates jobs up and down the supply chain, positively impacts the economy and uplifts the local communities.

“We saw an opportunity to partner with Pick n Pay on this campaign and get this perfectly good fruit to market while minimising the risk of job and volume losses,” say Johan Du Toit, business manager SADC at Good Hope Fruit and Karien Bassett, business manager at Dutoit.

“This is an innovative partnership within the agricultural and retail sectors. We have to help each other as much as possible for the greater good of the producers, labour force and consumers”.

While unique to South Africa, this campaign mimics similar sentiment taking place globally. Various campaigns have been launched in Europe to market ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables, with a focus on the fact that the nutritional value remains the same, even if the produce is imperfectly looking. This has further reduced the need to process and dump fresh produce.

“Following hail events, thorough assessments are carried out to determine the most optimal outcome for the orchard. With early damage such as what was experienced over the last year, we are still able to hand thin each and every tree to remove the worst affected fruit and give the remaining fruit the best chance to reach their full nutritional potential,” Jordaan says.

“Hail damaged fruit in no way implies less dedication to the handling and marketing of the fruit. In fact, perhaps even more care is taken to ensure the longevity of fruit.”

With climate change expected to increase the severity and frequency of hail in the Western Cape, Hail to Heroes encourages consumers to look beyond the external appearance and give these hail-damaged apples a chance.

“Hail to Heroes not only honours the fruit that braved the storm and reached the retailer’s shelves, but also the farmers and farm workers who have continued to nurture the fruit. Thank you to another hero, Pick ‘n Pay, for stepping up to sell unique looking apples that are perfectly nutritious and delicious,” continues Jordaan. 

“Hail to Hero” stickers will be attached to selected bags of apples in Pick n Pay stores, available from 26 July 2023. No mention is made about the hail-damaged pears in the press release.

For more details about this campaign, go to https://hailheroes.co.za.