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Kim Stewart Dec 12
Cherry juice producer targets exports
Eden Orchards is targeting export markets for its products, particularly in Asia,

Pure Marlborough sweet cherry juice in a bottle is hitting the New Zealand market this winter and could be rolling into some Asian countries soon.

The new venture is being launched by Eden Orchards, a successful family business with an established market delivering fresh cherries to consumers through pop-up produce stalls and Progressive supermarkets all over the country.

Last summer Eden Orchards bottled 30,000 bottles of Fresh Cherry Juice and a Sparkling Cherry Drink – 50% Pure Cherry Juice and 50% Sparkling Water – marketing them for their proven health benefits as well as being as a refreshing drink and substitute for a glass of wine to finish off the day.

Cherry juice is renowned as a sleep tonic – sweet cherries are a natural source of melatonin – a hormone that is naturally present in the human body and aids sleep by regulating the body’s circadian rhythm.

Studies have shown New Zealand sweet cherries contain levels of melatonin much higher than other cherry varieties grown in the Northern Hemisphere.

The products could have big possibilities for expanding into export markets, particularly in Asia, says company general manager Cameron Bignell.

Taking samples offshore, Cameron and his father have recently returned from Singapore where they attended one of the biggest trade shows in Asia giving out samples of the juice and the feedback they got was extremely positive.

There were a large number of interested importers and Cameron expects to begin exporting by the end of the year.

The business began over 30 years ago when Gary Bignell left school at the age of 16, and completed a Diploma in Horticulture, specialising in cherry growing.

He soon realised there was an opportunity to sell fresh cherries grown by others at local markets, and that’s what he did for the next 20 years – bringing wife Steph, sons Cameron and Jacob, and daughter Renee into the family business.

About ten years ago they planted 20,000 trees in the beautiful Waihopai Valley near Blenheim to fulfil the growing demand they had created for fresh cherries to sell at roadside stalls and produce markets, and Eden Orchards was born. . Cameron and his siblings literally have had a lifetime of experience in selling fresh fruit.

“We grew up at the markets,” he explained. “That’s the earliest thing I can remember.”

Some 50 sellers wearing bright cherry printed shirts – mostly university students on vacation – are employed during the summer to man the pop-up stalls in produce markets all over New Zealand.

Another 50 pickers and 20 packers are also employed at the orchard for the three-to-four week harvest season.

Eden Orchards cherries can be distinguished by their friendly staff and paper bags the cherries are presented in – the company philosophy being to offer tasters to help people’s decision to purchase rather than use glossy packaging.

In the past 6 or 7 years they have sold most of the cherries they produced through their stall outlets and haves recently been been supplying direct to Countdown .

However with the orchard now established and production expected to treble in the next two years from 50 tonnes to around 150 tonnes the family was looking for ways to grow their markets.

They plan to use their existing market stalls all over New Zealand to sell the new cherry products, taking their business from a seasonal summer operation selling fresh fruit to year-round.

Cherry juice producer targets exports

“It was Dad’s idea to make the cherry juice – he’s been the one researching and developing it, and I’m helping to show it to New Zealand as a product,” said Cameron.

“We’re having to not only sell the product, but also to generate the market.” They will also be approaching pharmacies as another outlet for the juices promoting the health and sleep benefits.

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