Banana grower Matt Abbott summarises what many in the industry know all too well: “Banana growers are growing more, working harder and being paid less for their product.”
It’s a sentiment that sparked his extensive Nuffield Scholarship study, focusing on how to increase value through branding.
His final report has recently been released, and provides a series of recommendations to the industry behind Australia’s most popular fruit.
“The need to make our banana business more profitable for the long-term future of our farm has driven this Nuffield Scholarship report,” Mr Abbott wrote.
“I wanted to investigate how our business could get a greater return for the product we produce.”
He added that his passion extended beyond his own business, to growing healthy, safe nutritious food with an environmentally sustainable focus – and to the Australian banana industry as a whole.
Branding was major a focus of his recommendations.
“The brand recognition might be related to the banana itself, or the way it is produced or packaged, or the story behind it,” he told Nuffield Australia.
“Uncle Matt’s Organics in the United States provides a clear example of the power of a strong brand to attract a price premium. Producing and selling fresh organic fruit juices, the brand has developed a narrative around sustainable and low-waste production systems that is attracting a price premium from consumers.”
Mr Abbott also recommended using technology to utilise out-of-spec fruit, and potentially even turn it into a product more valuable than the fresh market.
Among the examples listed were frozen bananas, banana crisps and dried banana.
Packaging was also key to his findings – namely, reducing it or finding biodegradable or alternative options, including laser printing.
His final recommendation was to investigate export opportunities, as “it is the only way the domestic industry can continue to grow the volume produced for the fresh category.”
In acknowledging those who supported his experience, he recommended the Nuffield Scholarship to anyone involved in the agricultural sector.
“I thought I did not have the time to spend away from my business, but I now realise how personally significant the benefit of this scholarship has been and I am extremely glad I set aside the time to do it,” he wrote.
“The Nuffield organisation is truly brilliant. The program and the people involved are so impressive. It’s hard to explain the value of a Nuffield Scholarship. It has definitely changed my life and the way I make decisions now. By far one of the hardest things I have done but also the most rewarding. The people you meet and the experiences you have would not be possible any other way. If you think that you are too busy and it’s too hard to do a Nuffield – that is the exact reason you should apply.”
Mr Abbott’s full report can be downloaded from http://www.nuffieldinternational.org/live/Reports.
Matt Abbott was supported by the Hort Innovation Banana Fund.