Turning commodity fruit into personality-rich brands.
Apples to apples, JIND Fruit Co. is no ordinary company. Led by 26-year old Jesse Sandhu, JIND Fruit Co. has become the largest independent packer of cherries and peaches in B.C., and counts Costco and Loblaws among its customers. In only two short years since launching the JIND Fruit brand, the company has shifted the traditional Okanagan fruit focus from commodity to branded product to gain market share.
“The approach has been successful. We’ve developed exclusive labels for customers, and have shown that packaging matters to the wholesalers and retailers,” says Sandhu.
Sandhu originally planned to become a hedge fund manager, and studied banking and finance law at the University of Leicester in Britain. However, his connection to the family orchards at Osoyoos, British Columbia called, and Sandhu returned to start JIND Fruit Co., building on his family’s long farming heritage.
- Since starting in 2011, the company has followed a strict strategic plan:
- Invested $6M in the largest, most high-tech private packing facility in B.C.
- Food safety and traceability have been built into the facility from the beginning.
- High-tech, atmosphere-controlled storage, shipping, packaging.
- Implementing a food safety and traceability protocol.
- Grows, packs and ships only 100% non-GMO tree fruits.
The first execution of the brand plan called for the development of summer-themed names, personality and packaging for their products to fit with the company’s tagline: What Summer Tastes Like. Summer Nights Cherries, Summer Love Peaches, Summer Breeze Apples and Summer Fling variety fruit (apricots, table grapes, nectarines, and Italian prune plums) are the branded names for the four different fruit varieties.
Supporting the brand plan is product quality positioning – to build a branded product, it has to offer more than just a commodity approach. This recognizes that growing high-quality fruit requires a high-quality approach and one based on heritage values.
- JIND values its growers, pickers and customers, treating them like family. Personal relationships are paramount.
- Experimenting with growing some cherry orchards in the old style, with wider-spaced trees to give cherries more sunlight
- Hand-picking and thinning of fruit with high quality standards and attention to detail.
Food safety and traceability make up the confidence backbone. In addition to fruit production from their own orchards, JIND Fruit contracts production from an additional 70 growers. As a result, JIND Fruit has built a quality control program that relies on CanadaGAP certification for all the growers. CanadaGAP is the Canadian Horticultural Council’s On-Farm Food Safety Program. It is a voluntary, national food safety standards and certification system for the safe production, storage and packing of fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Food safety is very important, so we subsidize the cost of CanadaGAP with our contract growers to ensure the highest standards of food safety and traceability,” says Sandhu.
JIND Fruit has also expanded contract production to growers in Washington State and JIND Fruit can also be found in the Asian market, exclusively shipping Summer Breeze apples to a wholesaler there.
Sandhu is involved in several other operations. The company has a greenhouse vegetable division where the same strategic approach is utilized. As JIND Fruit explores new market possibilities, though, it will be based on the successful strategy of building brands that move away from commodity marketing.
“Our brand positioning and strategy have opened the value doors for us. Our approach has allowed JIND to offer a differentiated product through the retail market,” says Jesse Sandhu.