The Yummy Fruit Company based near Havelock North, owned by the Paynter family, has an integrated growing, grading, branding, packing and transport business that promotes apples and stonefruit to New Zealanders, especially children, carrying the slogan “Premium apples from the family orchard since 1870”. It currently grows and promotes 14 varieties of apple and many varieties of nectarine and peach, some of them new and trademarked varieties like Lemonade, Ambrosia, Smitten, Sweetango and Genesis apples and Hunny nectarine. Yummy is the biggest domestic and oldest fresh fruit brand.
The Paynter family first started growing apples and stonefruit in the Nelson district in the 1870’s. In the early 1900’s members of the family shifted to Havelock North and fourth-generation orchardist John and his sons (fifth-generation) Jonothan and Paul now manage the large business, which consists of around 600ha of apple, pear and stonefruit orchards, a full-time staff of over 100 and up to 300 seasonal workers. The Paynters are supported by a professional and competent management team.
The head office is in Havelock North with a parent company called Johnny Appleseed Holdings. That company has 360ha of apples, 180ha of stonefruit and 25ha of pears, plus a tree nursery and land which is being replanted.
The Yummy brand was conceived in the early 1970’s to carry the new bigger, white-fleshed nectarines and peaches into the domestic market, to create an easily remembered brand with pull-through for consumers and to be able to promote vigorously in Auckland on radio and at public events during the peak season.
John Paynter says he is using the sixth different apple growing system in his lifetime, with trees getting smaller on dwarfing rootstock and closer together, to make the production more intense and the yields higher. A good yield now for apples would be 70 to 80 tons/ha and for stonefruit, 25-30 tons.
Larger fruit are grown for export, because they return more money. Yummy is targeting medium-sized fruit for its loose stickered domestic sales and smaller sizes for its bagged fruit. A box of apples under the Yummy brand is exactly the same quality whether it’s goes to export or the domestic market. The Paynters sell 75% of their apples and 100% of their stonefruit domestically, which is a big contrast to most larger growers, who concentrate on export.
Yummy Fruit Co has its own wholesale and marketing division based in Auckland, which works alongside partner Turners and Growers. The present business relationship with the Foodstuffs co-operative dates back to the early 1990’s and moved into apples from 1995 after deregulation.
The Yummy brand was conceived and launched by John Paynter in 1974, applying initially to stonefruit – nectarines and peaches. Individual fruit branding progressed from hand-stamping to automatic stickering. When the Apple and Pear Board was deregulated in 1994, the Yummy brand was used on apples from 1995 onwards. The medium-sized loose fruit with stickers and the convenient, child-friendly sized fruit in brightly branded bags are only available in Foodstuffs supermarkets in the North Island – New World and Pak’n’Save and Four Square stores. They are also sold through independent fruit and vegetable shops like Fruitworld.
The combination of the Paynter production and contract production gives the Yummy brand about 0.75 million cartons annually, which is a sizeable portion of the domestic consumption of four million cartons, compared with the export production of 15 to 16 million cartons.
Total NZ annual apple production is around 500,000 tons, of which exports are 300,000 tons, fresh domestic consumption 70,000 tons and processing 130,000 tons.
John Paynter says Yummy has a very strong proportion of the customer base for apples through the Foodstuffs retail outlets, varying from 70% during the harvest season, when competition increased from mainly export growers and wholesalers, through to 90% at off-season times when Yummy is grading its own cool stored apples. Yummy sells about 40% of fruit in bags versus 60% loose. The bags have a reputation for good quality, smaller-sized apples suitable for families.
In partnership with DG Sports, Turners and Growers, soccer great Wynton Rufer and the Foodstuffs supermarkets, Yummy Fruit Co has a $200,000 sports gear prize pool for the school promotion, encouraging children to eat apples. Children collect individual fruit stickers and cut-out labels from the bags. The more stickers and labels collected by children at one school, the more sports gear donated to that school. As well, the label collection sheets have interesting facts and figures about apples to educate the children. The promotion runs during terms 2 and 3 of the school year, when the cutout labels are attached to the Yummy apple bags. It is now in the 18th year in North Island primary and intermediate schools, demonstrating Yummy as a good corporate citizen.
In contrast with the more usual export focus of major apple growers, John Paynter says the Yummy business is “complete, year-round and more manageable” in which innovation is possible with new varieties and where relationships with the customers and feedback from consumers are very important. However it does require Yummy to have huge cool storage facilities and carry large inventories, which all adds considerable costs.