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Updates about the Horticulture Wales project, along with industry news and opinion.

Collaboration In Business Winner – Hendrewennol Fruit Garden, Homemade Country Preserves, and Cowpots Ice Cream

05 December 2013

The winner of our Collaboration In Business category is the partnership between Hendrewennol Fruit Garden, Homemade Country Preserves, and Cowpots Ice Cream. Three businesses – a fruit grower plus two food processors – working closely together on product development, transportation, and storage to add value to primary produce and come up with a range of products that have already proven to be a big hit with customers…

Chris Evans left and Richard Arnold (1000px * 638px)In operation since 1978, Hendrewennol Fruit Garden is a family-run “Pick Your Own” fruit farm based in the heart of the Vale of Glamorgan in Cowbridge. While it had previously experimented with using the fruit grown on site to produce jam that was sold in its farm shop, the firm had neither the capacity nor the necessary experience to manufacture the quantities required for such an idea to be particularly viable.

However, a solution to this problem was to be found an hour and a half or so’s drive up the South Wales M4 corridor. Separated by just 16 miles, Homemade Country Preserves, an award-winning manufacturer of jams, chutneys, preserves, and diabetic products from Clarbeston, Pembrokeshire, and Whitland-based luxury ice cream maker Cowpots Ice Cream had worked together for a number of years – with the former supplying preparation jams for the latter to produce some of its fruit-based flavours.

At first glance, the relationship between the three businesses is simple – Hendrewennol Fruit Garden supplies fresh fruit (strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, gooseberries, and pumpkins), which is frozen and stored at Homemade Country Preserves, before being made into a range of jams and preserves that are then sold back at the fruit farm, under its own branding. Homemade Country Preserves also turns some of the fruit into a special ice cream preparation jam – ice cream can’t actually be made with fresh fruit, it needs to be processed first – that Cowpots Ice Cream then uses to make special soft scoop varieties that are again retailed back at the fruit farm under Hendrewennol Fruit Garden branding.

So one grower gets a range of quality added value products to sell to its customers (and an outlet for its surplus fruit, therefore significantly cutting potential waste), thanks to the expertise of two highly experienced food processors, who themselves are rewarded with another outlet for their services…

Fruit Jam Ice Cream Customers - Copy (180px * 180px)But digging beneath the surface, it was clear to our judges that this partnership between the three companies – even though still in its first year and with everyone admitting it has been a “steep learning curve” – goes much, much deeper, bringing about a number of additional benefits, and with firm plans in place for even stronger links in the years to come.

One of the areas where the three businesses have collaborated the closest – and will continue to do so in future – is in the area of product development. Even though the family at Hendrewennol Fruit Garden has previously experimented with jam production, they would be the first to admit their knowledge on the subject wouldn’t compare to Chris and Jeff Evans of Homemade Country Preserves, likewise with Cowpots Ice Cream and its own industry expertise.

So the fruit farm has tapped into this knowledge, and taken on board the processors’ opinions, to develop the range of products it has stocked. For example, Brian Bowman and the team at Cowpots Ice Cream urged the fruit farm to consider a wider range of flavours rather than simply stick to tried and tested fruit-based favourites such as raspberry or strawberry. The result? Varieties such as a rhubarb and custard flavour that proved so popular that Hendrewennol Fruit Garden has actually started growing more rhubarb to meet the demand for it, and a pumpkin flavour especially for Halloween, one of the most important (and busiest) trading periods for a fruit farm outside of Christmas. Similarly, Homemade Country Preserves helped develop the idea for a popular pumpkin, red pepper, and ginger chutney. As Chris Evans explained to our judges, these pumpkin products are a great way to inspire people to not just throw away their carved pumpkins each year, but to think of the other fun ways the remaining fruit could be used, rather than simply being wasted.

In the coming months, the three businesses will be working together on an extended range – not just additional flavours, but other products such as sorbets, syrups, and coulis too. And after experiencing a highly successful first year working together – Hendrewennol Fruit Garden actually sold as many pots of jam as they had in the last 10 years – the collaboration now has a better grasp on the quantities that can be sold, so it is expecting to ramp up volumes too.

Hend Family (180px * 135px)Location is obviously a major factor the partnership has had to take into consideration – particularly the distance between the fruit grower/end-retailer and the two processors. But by communicating clearly, the three businesses have been able to deliver “back to back” i.e. when a delivery of stock is transported back to Hendrewennol Fruit Garden to sell, the same vehicle is filled up for the return journey with the fruit required to make upcoming batches. Deliveries to and from Homemade Country Preserves have been made in three set batches, but due to the nature of the product, transporting the ice creams has tended to be on a more regular basis. During the hot summer months Hendrewennol Fruit Garden actually sold out of ice cream one day – which they actually retail out of a soft scoop freezer provided by Cowpots Ice Cream – but because of the constant communication and good relationship between the companies, a delivery of emergency supplies was on sale in Cowbridge the following day.

Another benefit for the fruit grower in a relationship such as this is the ability to elongate growing and picking seasons. Surplus fruit grown late season at Hendrewennol Fruit Garden is now saved and stored to make “next year’s” jams and ice creams. Chris from Homemade Country Preserves also emphasised to our judges how turning fruit into products such as preserves or ice creams could be a much-needed contingency plan for growers needing an outlet for surplus stock, or slightly blemished or misshaped Class II produce – she highlighted a recent example where due to a customer not fulfilling an order, a strawberry grower had to throw away literally half a field of perfectly useable fruit.

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