The number of varieties of South African plums needs to be reduced if UK sales are to grow, an industry expert has claimed.

Consumers were largely unaware of the different varieties, and were more interested in consistent-tasting product, said Stefan Conradie, product manager for the South African top and stone fruit industries.

South Africa exports 39,000 tonnes of plums annually, of which about 30% are sent to the UK. However dozens of varieties are grown, leading to peaks and troughs in supply.

Fewer varieties on-shelf throughout the season would present greater opportunities to build consumer loyalty, he added.

"Plums is the big opportunity in South Africa if we get the strategy right," said Conradie. "We need a more even availability of supply, focusing on the right varieties at the right time."

UK sales grew 3% last year to £93m, with volume sales up 1.6% [Nielsen].