Eastern Cape success with organic juice

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Employment created and growth forecast as Sundays River venture grabs national sales

A Sundays River Valley citrus consortium has been reaping the fruits of the growing trend towards organic products and now boasts the only certified organic frozen orange and lemon juice made and sold in South Africa.

Formed in 2005 through the close cooperation of four independent Sundays River Valley farmers, the Sundays Organic Growers’ Association (Soga) now leads the country’s organic frozen orange and lemon juice markets.

Members say it is the only producer to supply the nationally and internationally certified organic products in the country.

Since launching its frozen orange juice in 2015 and from just seven outlets, Soga now distributes its products through 34 Food Lover’s Market stores in both the Western and Eastern Cape. It launched its frozen lemon juice late last year.

Now, it plans to expand into Gauteng this year.

With citrus being seasonal produce, Soga says its unique advantage is that it can supply both orange and lemon juice – which contains nothing but the actual fruit – all year round.

“The organic market in South Africa is definitely growing,” Soga marketing manager Lize Garrod said. “I think social media plays a huge role in educating and informing consumers of their options and the benefits of organic produce.

“Internationally, organic produce is huge.

“We attend BioFach – the world’s leading trade fair for organic food – in Germany every year and it is mind-blowing how the organic market is so well and alive in Europe.

“South Africa still has a long way to go,” Garrod said.

“Many people still view organic products as belonging to a niche market, but if you can offer organic produce at affordable prices, the choice for the consumer is easy.

“Being a local company that owns the whole supply chain from growing the trees, processing the juice to final packaging, we can reduce cost to make sure our products are competitive with others in the market and we are also the only certified organic citrus processor.”

Garrod said that Soga, which enjoys a solid commercial relationship with the biggest packer and marketer of citrus in the southern hemisphere, the Sundays River Citrus Company, exported 200 tons of its “single strength” – meaning pure, fresh juice – annually.

The association’s organic initiatives also helped create employment. “It is common knowledge that organic farming employs a lot more people than conventional farming,” Garrod said.

“The processing plant has created additional employment.

“The retail filling line on its own has created an additional five jobs. Some of the staff are also involved on the juice processing side and our operation secured workers full-time employment versus seasonal employment, which was the case prior to the launch of the retail products.”

Garrod said significant capital investment had been required to custombuild production lines for each product.

Contributing to keeping most of the process in the greater region, Soga also appointed Port Elizabeth’s Boomtown advertising agency to design the striking packaging for the frozen lemon juice.

It was launched onto the market last month.

“We have really enjoyed working with an Eastern Cape business with passion and vision,” Boomtown managing director Andrew MacKenzie said.

“Like our people, the Soga team are passionate about their community, the environment and bringing consumers certified organic products.”

Shaun Gillham

This story first appeared in The Herald on 19/1/2016.

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