Archive for February, 2013

How NOT To Sell Fruit & Veg

2011-11-14 15.46.05The media is full of Christchurch stories. Some positive, some anything but.  Government is breathing a sigh of relief after the Supreme Court’s ruling on the potential impact of the partial sales of Might River Power. A fair amount of the money Bill English hopes to realise through the sale is earmarked for the Christchurch rebuild.  Meanwhile the Christchurch City Council, which is apparently required to front up with 40% of the rebuild cost, has put a stake in the ground by announcing that it has no intention of financing its share of the rebuild through asset sales.

Across town, the Anglican Church has gone to court because it wants to use $4 million from its insurance payout to partially fund its cardboard cathedral, whilst a group of renegades clustered around the former supermarket trolley manufacturer Jim Anderton is lobbying to have the original cathedral restored rather than demolished.

In amongst all that macro-economic stuff the ordinary citizens and small business owners of Christchurch are trying to come to grips with why , how and when their homes are facing demolition, repair or compulsory aquisition. Not easy for anyone.  And not just in Christchurch.  The rest of us are watching and there is a fair amount of empathy.

Only – my level of empathy deteriorates at a rapid rate of knots when I come across scenes like the ones I am depicting in my photos here…

What has all the hallmarks of a classy greengrocer sits surrounded by empty sections in the middle of Christchurch.  People need to eat, even in a Christchurch in recovery mode.  One would think therefore that if one were a greengrocer with a bit of pride one would make sure all the outside displays were full and properly merchandised but that is clearly only partially the case here.  Ah well, may be I caught them on a bad hair day?  Hm, but how about this?  An over-sized blackboard with nothing but the price and the weight unit on display?  For over an hour at least?  Come on guys, show a little bit of an interest in what you are doing…


Hey, may be you were a bit busy… who knows.  What is totally unforgivable though is the rubbish display.  What are we trying to sell here? Fruit or garbage?  And in full sight as well.  That’s where I stop being sympathetic.2011-11-14 16.27.36



Fruit & Vegie Prices – What Does Count?

Somebody is on the right track at last and is trying to wrap some rationale around the annual “the world is ending because fruit & vegetable prices are going through the roof” routine offered by the scaremongering social do gooder fraternity. Getting the fruit & vegetable value equation right is one of the great challenges for growers, wholesalers and retailer alike – and of course, the consumer is the ultimate judge on whether the industry is succeeding with its endeavours – or not as the case may be.  To balance the equation we need to have informed consumers at the other end of the spectrum and too often, unfortunately, the media goes out of its way to ensure that rationale is suppressed in favour of populist opinion.  I view this NZ Herald article as a genuine attempt to add some depth and fact to the argument.  Will the message get through?  I doubt very much on the first attempt.  For that we need a sustained effort.

Fruit World, Greenhithe, Auckland, New Zealand

Fruit World, Greenhithe, Auckland, New Zealand

The fact that the Herald’s shopping basket is not weighted for relative importance is a significant factor with the potential to paint an inaccurate picture as is the fact that we can not be sure that apples are being compared with apples.

What do I mean? Well, let’s have a look what the Herald’s price index is based on – 1kg each of oranges, bananas, apples, kiwifruit, lettuce, potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes, cabbage and broccoli.  Depending upon the time of year the produce is being purchased we could be talking about Australian, Californian or New Zealand oranges, with the varieties being either Navel or Valencia.  The term ‘apples’ covers a multitude of sins from old favourites like Granny Smith to new exciting varieties like Jazz or Mahana Red.  Kiwifruit come as green or gold, in several fruit sizes , in various grades and either loose, bagged or packed.  Aka tomatoes.  My local supermarket had tomatoes in 12 different SKUs yesterday.  Potatoes range from loose to 20kg bags, white or red, brushed or washed, new season or main crop.  Iceberg lettuce or Cos lettuce?  Field grown or from hydroponic production?

And bananas for that matter were retailing at $2.69 per kg in 1987 when government price controls still applied in this area.  Today they typically sell for between $1.49 – 2.99 per kg.  One could hardly call that price gauging.

I think you get my point.  The fruit and vegetable business is a sophisticated industry where FMCG based marketing techniques are fused with the cycles of nature.  The industry deserves to be taken serious and that includes that journalists  attempting to analyse the fruit and vegetable business make an effort to understand it thoroughly or go away and write about something that is easier for them to understand.


West Island Shananigans – The Aussies Are At It Again

Dick Smith is an Australian icon. They don’t have many – and as we know Phar Lap and Pavlova had their origins in New Zealand.  So did Russell Crowe as a a matter of fact, but I am digressing.  Anyway, we are used to it by now that our West Island cousins are always either claiming as theirs something that is most certainly not theirs – or trying to stop quality produce from New Zealand entering the land of Oz on the basis of scientifically unsustainable assertions.newbeetrootsizedwebshadow_0

Now we have a new variation to the theme.  Caustic Australian reactions when something is taken away which they consider rightfully theirs.  The case in point – Beetroot.  In that particular case, we have Heinz on an Australasian basis shifting its beetroot production for whatever reasons from Australia to Hawkes Bay in New Zealand and all hell is breaking loose.  Superior product in Australia, claims about inferior product in New Zealand, perceived threat to the Australian way of life….you name it, Dick says it.

The only half pie relevant comment Dick Smith makes  relates to the fact that multinationals have a habit of shifting production from one country to another as it suits and that New Zealand could find itself in a similar position in the future. True – but one would need to ask the question…What lead to the change in the first place and what can be learned ?

One thing Australia needs to learn – and not just related to beet root – is that the global trade concept is not a one way street that can be manipulated at will.  Dick Smith and others would do well by picking up A Splendid Exchange – How Trade Shaped the World (by William J Bernstein.)  And anyone else trying to figure out how come towns are no longer just consuming what is grown in front of their gates could benefit from having a read as well.  The whole concept and origin of trade is very well explained in this book, starting with the Sumerian and finishing with the oil trade of the 20th Century and the impact of the WTO.




Nectarine Thief Ordered To Pay $1.25 In Reparation

Eyeing The Fruit Stand John George Brown 1831-1913

Eyeing The Fruit Stand
John George Brown

Now I have heard it all.  To save me repeating myself, readers should start by checking out this link on the NZ Herald website before reading on.    Go on, do it now!

Done? Good!

Here we have a scallywag who thinks it is ok to wander into a New Plymouth supermarket and start eating the food on display, which happens to have been nectarines, on the basis that he had no money to pay for them.  The court case was heard in Kaitaia and  defence counsel claimed that her client had been living on the streets of Gisborne.

The first thing that comes to mind is that its a long way between New Plymouth, Kaitaia and Gisborne.  Several hundred kilometres in fact. And to cover this distance one needs money…. But we don’t have the money to pay for a nectarine?  The second thought is – do our courts really have nothing better to do than prosecute a young layabout who helped himself to one piece of fruit?  Court costs, judge’s salary, defence counsel’s  fees, the mind boggles.  The third tought  – there is a whole social argument hidden here in the trenches.  We are mammals which need to eat when we are hungry and drink when we are thirsty, otherwise we die.  Yet our societal structure has evolved to the extent that we actually need this artificial invention called money that drives the concept called trade in order to provide sustenance for ourselves.  Have we gone too far? And lastly – back to the commercial reality we are a part of, like it or not – what does the produce industry have to do to get consumers, including judges, to understand the true value of fruit?  $1.25 in reparation is quite ridiculous from that perspective.  All it will do is drive the message home that fruit is of very little value and its ok to help yourself.  I wonder what the sentence would have been  if Master Casford had opened a can of Coke instead?

New Zealand Banana Politics 2013 – First Installment

fyffe What might this be?  Well, it looks like a bunch of bananas.  It sure felt like a bunch of bananas and when I ate one, it certainly tasted like a banana.  Therefore it is a banana.  Case closed.

If only there wasn’t this little blue label on the fruit and that’s where matters  gets interesting.  You see, during the last ten years the New Zealand consumer has been used to seeing Bonita, Dole and Gracio branded bananas in supermarkets and greengrocers.  More recently, Fair Trade fruit has also made an appearance.

Bonita bananas, coming  from Ecuador, are imported by Turners & Growers, Dole bananas get here from the Philippines via a joint venture with MG Marketing and Countdown imports Gracio bananas, also from the Philippines.

Consumers care very little about banana politics.  As long as the fruit is the right colour, does not have bruises or stem rot and is priced reasonably, bananas will be purchased and consumed. Period. lrgscaleCoaster-Fyffes

Only – those of us who have a little inkling on how the produce industry works are left pondering how the Fyffe fruit got into the country in the first place; whether this was a once-off occasion or whether Fyffe will be a regular caller; how Luigi Noboa feels about this; what the impact on the wider banana pricing position will be as a result of someone deciding to mix matters up a little; whether overall volumes coming into the country were adjusted or whether the Fyffe fruit is ‘extra’….  You know, just a few minor considerations really….Yeah, right – to quote the Tui billboards.  Anyone interested in a historic perspective of the New Zealand banana business could do worse than following through here.