Fruit and vegetable canning has been an integral part of the SA food industry since it started exporting to the UK in the 1940s.
The biggest player is Tiger Brands, followed by Del Monte, Ashton Canning and Rhodes Fruit Farms. Talk in the industry at the moment is of the proposed merger of Tiger and Ashton, which would create a massive marketing and production force but may result in the loss of jobs.
Wiehahn Victor, general manager of the Canning Fruit Producers’ Association, says the industry is in ‘squeeze’ mode due to falling margins and a high rand. “The South Africa canning industry is known for its very good quality and is well established,” he says. “We are generally in quite good shape. But we are experiencing a strong rand and a third year of drought, and these two factors are making things difficult.”
The industry has had to become more efficient to keep up with exchange rates. It is aiming at more packaging innovations to keep fruit fresher, such as Del Monte’s Fruit Cups, says Victor.
“The UK is still a very important market for us, but it needs to become more profitable,” he says.