English top fruit cooperative Northcourt Group has formed a joint marketing venture with Enzafruit Worldwide ­ in which English growers will be involved in selling NZ apples for the first time. The new venture will be called Worldwide Fruit and will collectively handle the companies' existing ranges of fresh produce. Enzafruit Worldwide is an alliance between Geest, based in Spalding, and Enza UK. Similarly, Northcourt links Fruition and East Kent Packers. Alasdair Robertson, a former European manager for the New Zealand Apple and Pear Marketing Board, and now based in the UK, becomes the chief executive of Worldwide Fruit. Both parties say the move has been welcomed by their supermarket customers and will have cost saving benefits. The annual turnover of the new company is estimated to be £130m. Northcourt accounts for 50% of UK apples and pears while Enzafruit Worldwide is a major handler of New Zealand top fruit, as well as other globally sourced fruit such as kiwifruit and avocados. Both supply supermarkets. Gordon Pates, chairman of Enzafruit Worldwide, said the move recognised the changes taking place in the UK industry and the need for enhanced category management capability. The new company will operate from current sales and administration bases. Spalding will function as the main added value site for European produce, non UK northern hemisphere top fruit and other products, while Canterbury ­ Northcourt's base ­ will house English and New Zealand fruit sales. Northcourt's chairman Robert Balicki has greeted the initiative by saying the decision would be a major step forward in ensuring the viability and growth of the English top fruit industry, which was under significant pressure. "It will also ensure we can continue to invest in the industry thanks to the full year round utilisation of assets," he said. {{FRESH PRODUCE }}