In the expert arena of processing fruit concentrate, blends and segments, South Africa’s Cape Fruit Processors has created a name for itself as a leader in this niche market. To date, the company is known on a local and international level for its high quality fruit products.

In 2000, Cape Fruit and Riverside Processors originally became one venture under the Vonnie Thalwitzer Group of Companies, creating a strong brand, with a management team that had a farming background. Vonnie Thalwitzer started the company in 1996, previously a farmer. He knew that in order to make the business successful, his company would have to “know the market better than all competitors, and be able to diversify the product offering,” he comments.

In 2008, Cape Fruit Processors acquired a plant in Nelspruit and built a new plant in Kirkwood where the company’s citrus for juices and essential oils are processed. With four processing plants in total, the company also owns plants in Malelane, Mpumalanga and Paarl, Western Cape, creating a great scope of operations for their excellent products. The company also began constructing a new plant in April 2010, which was completed at the end of February this year.

This plant is located in the Hoedspruit area in Limpopo province. It will process mostly oranges, grapefruits and lemons. It is also a very big mango production centre. “This plant will increase our output by 20 per cent for this new season,” Thalwitzer says. “It is also a growing point for citrus in South Africa.”

The key to success for Cape Fruit Processors has been to add value where the competition can’t. “There are about eight or nine competing processors in our area today,” Thalwitzer says. “The way the company started and the way it’s been successful has been by adding value to our exports. So we don’t brand each product but instead supply, with great customer service and the ability to customize products, to other brands like Parmalat. The brand we try to promote ourselves is Cape Fruit Processors, the preferred processing plant in South Africa, the only one that processes in five different areas,” Thalwitzer says. “We always try to be a reliable supplier.”

Product range

Cape Fruit Processors covers a variety of fruit products that can be customized to client specifications. The company creates a number of healthy fruit products from 100 per cent juices, tropical blend juices, nectars, cocktails, carbonated drinks, syrups and still drinks.

Its products come in distinct groups including concentrate, segments and cell sacs, fruit pulp and puree and instant quick freeze products, creating an exciting repertoire of delicious fruit creations. Cape Fruit’s concentrate products are offered in a variety of fruit flavours from standard fruits to the more exotic. “We try to diversify and offer not necessarily the normal fusion of fruits. We try to know the market a bit better than other people so that we can make recommendations to our customers. We also try to diversify our products, our concentrates,” Thalwitzer says.

There is a wide range of choices, including: white grapefruit, mandarins, clear pear, mango and lichi—the company’s concentrate range runs the full gamut for any consumer’s wants.  Cape Fruit’s segments and cell sacs product range include packaged fruits in syrup or juice such as orange and grapefruit segments and cell sacs in juice. An extensive full pulp and puree range includes exotics like litchi and mango pulp to banana and prickly pear. The company’s instant quick freeze products include mango slices, orange and grapefruit chunks and segments and more.

Cape Fruit also encompasses Orchard Bounty Nectars which offers a delicious range of combination nectars including tasty tropical flavours like mango/orange, banana/guava and tropical punch or simple products like 40 per cent apply nectar and 50 per cent orange nectar. Within the Orchard Bounty range Cape Fruit Processors also offers 100 per cent pure Orchard Bounty juice which is comprised of oranges and berries, apple, litchi, mango and tropical punch.

Another aspect of the company’s extensive product range includes citrus oils. Cape Fruit’s high quality oils include lemon oil, grapefruit oil and Valencia orange oil.

Farming

Cape Fruit Processors shareholders have farming interests that are spread throughout Southern Africa, with a focus on citrus and deciduous fruits as well as sub-tropical fruit and sugar cane that are grown for both the local and international market.

Malelane in Mpumalanga is the hub of the company’s citrus production; however, in addition crops of sub-tropical fruits and cane are grown at this farm. Cape Fruit’s deciduous fruit farms are located in the Eastern Cape in Langkloof at Letabakop Farms and the Western Cape in Hex River Valley. Packaging and cold storage facilities are also in operation at Letabakop Farms.

Karino Farms (also known as Riverside Farms) is ideally situated on the southern border of Kruger National Park. The company says about the location, “At Riverside, fruit production and wildlife exists in perfect harmony as the farm includes 2,500 hectares of game reserve, situated literally in the centre of the orchards and cane fields.”

Vision and mission

With long term goals of profitability and increasing competitiveness in an international market, Cape Fruit has made their mark in the fruit processing arena. Thalwitzer says that the emphasis will be on product development and “introducing products that people haven’t tried yet,” as the company grows.  The company’s mission of integrity includes maintaining an Integrated HACCP, quality management system, maintaining proper manufacturing practices, and producing quality products at reasonable prices. Cape Fruit Processors also puts an emphasis on value-adding to its already existing product.

The company values integrity and they place importance on their staff: all qualified and trained personnel. The company takes communication and people development seriously and has a reputation for its stellar customer service: “I hand pick our personnel myself,” says Thalwitzer. “We have management meetings every quarter, and conferences every week with the top people in our company. The majority of our staff has many years of experience in their field, and 15 or 20 per cent per cent of the same people I worked with a decade ago are still here.”

“Every company is as good as its people. That’s the bottom line of cape fruits,” Thalwitzer assures. Within their extensive product range and more than a decade of experience, Cape Fruit Processors has become a major contender in the fruit processing arena—with extensive operations to support growth in the years to come.