Stonefruit is a difficult category to trade but it does have the ability to wow people, according to Shaun Hockey from The Stonefruit Specialists.
“Soft fruit has taken a lot of shelf space from stonefruit over the years. Soft fruit is more consistent and there a steady year-round supply which is difficult to achieve with stonefruit.
“Stonefruit also keeps maturing after it is picked which changes the firmness and sweetness, retailers have started to introduce ready to eat stone fruit but it only takes one bad experience for the customer to stop buying it.”
Shaun thinks a good way to encourage stonefruit sales would be to promote it when its in season in the UK and not to try to have 52 weeks a year supply.
“Flat peaches and nectarines have had a big impact on the market, it has been an opportunity for breeders to bring consistency to the sector also all of the varieties are relatively new so it is the best of the best.
“In peaches and plums there are so many varieties this is where the challenge lies. Any decent grower will have 2-3 different varieties for each week of the season, this will mean he has to grow around 100 varieties just to get through the season. This is true for a grower in the Northern Hemisphere, the growers in South Africa grow mainly for the export market so they can eliminate anything that’s not good for export.”
There are so many varieties of plums, peaches and nectarines on the market that the consumer can’t begin to get to know them all.
“Branding could be the way forward for stonefruit: some retailers already have their own premium brands and stonefruit could nicely into this or perhaps an ‘In season’ range to highlight when it is and other fruit is in season and at its best.
“Despite the many challenges posed by stonefruit there are still so many opportunities in the sector.”