The Quest for Fruit Excellence
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Joshua Mann
Guided by the ultimate objective to vertically integrate its supply chain, GOGO is on a mission to provide the best service to both local growers and buyers in all corners of the world. Known for the unrivalled quality and consistency of its fruit produce – epitomised by its reputation for delivering ‘the Rolls-Royce of fruit’ – the GOGO brand continues to stand strong and exceed customer expectation through strategic investment in its key processes and the equipment required to stay head and shoulders above the competition.
GOGO’s ownership structure mirrors its founding philosophies of trust, local partnerships and putting the power back into the hands of the farmer. Consisting of five producing companies, some with shared ownership structures – namely EL Sundew Farming, Tian Kruger Farming, JJ Gouws Farming, Nyawa Farming and JFK Farming – all supported by a marketing, procurement, cold chain, logistics and export chain, the Company is able to engender a close-knit, transparent relationship between its customers and the business; while ensuring an ongoing supply of quality fruit all year round.
Eben Kruger, Director at GOGO and Managing Director of EKM Exports affirms: “Success for us is a combination of many things but at its core is quality fruit and relationships with our buyers all over the world. From our facilities in South Africa, we have achieved a strong local and international presence across Africa, Canada, EU member states, the UK, the Middle East and Asia. Today, we are one of the preferred brands for many retailers and wholesalers around the world.”
The Company’s efforts to streamline and take control of its supply chain has been compounded in recent years by a series of spends: including the establishment of GOGO Cold Rooms; a US$3.5 million facility designed and built-in proximity to GOGO producers to ensure that fruit is packed and moved into the cold chain as fast as possible; a new $7.5 million pack house which was finished this year, comprising the best machine technology available; and ongoing investment covering the more than 500 hectares of orchards with netting to ensure consistent yields are achieved year-in, year-out.
“The market is growing by the day and the fact is people want to buy good looking fruit with good taste. There is often a stigma attached in regards to consumer reluctance to eating healthily, so extra emphasis has to be placed on the aesthetics of the finished product; adhering to strict size and colour specifications,” says Kruger. “And these expectations are constantly being revisited and adjusted. Therefore, supplying the changing needs of the market is a challenge that requires continuous investment. If we can satisfy customer expectations then we will succeed and keep people coming back for more,” says Kruger.
GOGO’s biggest investment in this regard has been to cover some 500-acres-plus of orchards with netting, at a cost of $15,000 per hectare. “In the past three years, we have managed coverage of approximately 300 hectares and will have 500 hectares or more covered by the end of 2017. This is an ongoing process that takes time but promises to improve the surety and quality of fruit each season, among other benefits,” he explains.
“Furthermore, the new pack house was finished three months ago; representing a huge investment to ensure we have the capacity to pack our fruit with the most technologically-advanced machinery that is available.”
In a bid to pass on the best return for its growers and improve farm-to-buyer freshness, GOGO has taken a cost-conscious approach to bringing its supply chain in-house over the past decade. Led by its motto, ‘the quest for fruit excellence’, the Company strives to instil confidence in all who come into contact with the GOGO brand.
“We are not simply a Company seeking to turnover huge sums of money, but rather, a Company seeking to leave a legacy. Guided by this legacy, we decided to eliminate the middle man and invest in our own fully-fledged supply chain locally. In terms of logistics, we created RON (Rotterdam Overseas Network) to streamline our freight forwarding and documentation to minimise our costs and encourage operational dynamism,” says Kruger.
“Adding to this was the formation of Kholwa Logistics to oversee the movement of our containers via railway from Pretoria directly to the Port of Durban; presenting not only significant cost savings, but also addressing the country-wide challenge of excessive trucks on South Africa’s roads.”
Alongside these divisions sits GOGO Cold Rooms – state-of-the-art inland cold storage facilities that serve as a central hub for all the local farms – which is situated next to the main pack house. “These strategic investments allow us to remain at the cutting-edge of industry; maximising efficiency and minimising costs. By doing this we are in control of the whole cold chain from start to finish. Our inland cold room facility is the only one in South Africa capable of fulfilling the cold treatment requirements for special markets such as China, Taiwan and India, to name a few,” adds Kruger.
“Non-stop training is required as a result of a year-round demand for products across so many markets with different regulations and requirements. We are constantly sending our staff – 98 percent of which are local – for training delivered through internal training, seminars and schooling.”
Additionally, placing concerted focus on social upliftment in the local communities has always been an integral part of GOGO’s core focus; having previously taken part in housing projects that have benefitted its employees.
Now that the integrated supply chain is in place, GOGO is working hard to expand export routes to EU countries; achieving an all-year round supply of citrus and kaki fruit as a result. “Fruit may be seasonal, but demand is not,” concludes Kruger. “Through strategic partnerships and relationships, we ensure that we have access to a year-round supply of fruit. We only deal with the best and it is our promise that those who deal with GOGO can expect nothing less.”