Three large English top fruit suppliers are to merge into "a fully integrated marketing and growing group", it has been confirmed.
The Society of Growers of Topfruit (SGT), Fruit Growers Alliance (FGA) and Norman Collett have combined to form Avalon Produce Ltd (APL), based in Kent.
The new business is 50 per cent owned by the SGT and FGA grower groups who will form half of the management board, led by Giles Cannon (SGT) Sean Charlton (Norman Collett Growers) and James Smith (FGA). Norman Collett finance director Ashley Bernhard is managing director and board member alongside Dan Barker and Chris Browning, with Andy Sadler as chairman. It will begin trading with immediate effect.
Bernhard said: "APL represents the most stable and sustainable way for good growers to prosper in the current trading climate. A business owned and managed by growers, providing that essential direct collaborative link between grower and retailer is the best route."
Avalon will supply a full range of English apple and pear varieties including core premium and club fruits, and aims to invest in grading and storage technology to improve stock management and service.
Viewpoint - Adrian Barlow, chief executive, English Apples & Pears
"This will be beneficial for the English industry as a whole. The new company will be grower-controlled, and will have greater strength in the marketplace. It will provide efficiencies compared with the three separate businesses leading to cost savings and improved quality as fruit can be sold more quickly. It's also good for their customers as with a less fragmented supplier base they will get a clearer picture of volumes - not different people giving them different information."