3 March 2021
On Boxing Day, a massive hailstorm hit Motueka, one of New Zealand's apple growing regions. Just weeks before the annual harvest, some apples were heavily damaged, while others were left with small cosmetic blemishes that nonetheless made them unsuitable for export. Instead of discarding or juicing those apples as it normally would have, local fruit growing company Golden Bay Fruit rebranded them as Stormy Fruit: 'Our very best fruit, kissed by the force of nature.'
Much of the fruit produced in New Zealand is sold in Europe and Asia, and quality grading is strict. Small marks don't affect an apple's taste or quality, but they do lead to downgrading as 'class 2.' By selling its hailstorm apples under an evocative new label, Golden Bay Fruit is circumventing those class restrictions and will start shipping 200-300 containers this week. Clients abroad appear to be more receptive than locals. The company's CEO, Heath Wilkins, told Stuff that there was much higher demand overseas for slightly damaged fruit, and that he'd love to sell it locally if there was interest from New Zealand supermarkets.
Besides recouping some of the growers' losses at a higher price than they'd get for juice apples, the obvious win is saving food from being wasted. A 2019 study estimated that food loss at the farm level is as high as 33.7%, and that's before waste further up the supply chain and by consumers. Factor in crop damage caused by more frequent extreme weather events, and it's clear we need to find solutions. How can you entice consumers to appreciate and seek out your version of Stormy Fruit?