Minimum maturity standards adoption across the table grape supply chain (TG19004)
What’s it all about?
This investment is working to ensure that the new minimum maturity standards for table grapes are fully adopted across the supply chain from the 2020/21 season onwards. The project team will work closely with growers to build their capacity and understanding of how to improve their table grape quality, as well as wholesalers and supermarkets to drive their accountability along the supply chain. These efforts will contribute to ensuring greater consumer satisfaction in the quality and taste of Australian table grapes.
Grower workshops and webinars will be held throughout the project to ensure that table grape growers understand the benefits of minimum maturity standards and to provide them with the knowledge and skills to implement them in their businesses. Regular updates will also be communicated through the Australian table grape industry communications program (TG18004) various channels, which you can sign up for here.
Close engagement will also be maintained with major retailers to monitor the progress of meeting the minimum maturity standards, including training with technical teams and gaining access to in-store monitoring data.
These activities will be underpinned with the collection of quality data to measure how the industry is performing against the standards, and how consumers are responding to the changes.
The project team report progress in the following areas:
- Regular 1:1 meetings with suppliers and retailers has enable deeper discussions and has helped to accelerate adoption as any individual barriers or issues can be more easily addressed and overcome.
- Pre-season grower roadshows were held across the country in the second half of 2022. The prior season performance was discussed and plans outlined for the upcoming season, followed by a Q&A. The aim of the roadshows was to aid growers’ understanding and encourage adoption and support for adhering to the maturity standards.
- An online meeting was held in January 2023 to share the findings from TG19003 of consumer monitoring (which showed consumer acceptance had fallen to 70 per cent) and to share in-field testing results for the Sunraysia region.
- Weekly performance summaries continued to be sent to each retailer.
- In-store maturity monitoring was completed weekly during the season. Additional testing was conducted as the season ran longer than the usual 20 weeks, and was extended to include imported fruit and early season domestic production regions (which were prone to producing low maturity fruit).
- Ongoing pre-harvest maturity monitoring continued in Emerald, Robinvale and Mildura – with the information provide to growers, suppliers and retailers.
This project is on track to ensure a minimum maturity standard is adopted across the table grape supply chain. Recently, the following has been achieved:
- Widespread adoption by the table grape supply chain of the minimum maturity standard. This has been achieved through regular communication with the broader supply chain, with testing and monitoring data being updated weekly.
- The adoption of minimum maturity standard protocols for all key maturity monitoring activities. This includes pre-harvest, on-farm, in-store and in retailer meetings with a stakeholder working group.
- Maturity results published weekly on the online portal for key grape varieties, types and individual benchmarking data provided to key retailers.
- On-farm testing for assessing season start monitoring. This was conducted in Emerald, Mildura, and Robinvale for a four-week period, prior to the historical season start date. The results circulated to growers, suppliers, and retailers to mitigate the temptation to start the season before the fruit had matured to an acceptable quality.
- Weekly monitoring of the fruit’s maturity in-store.
- Monitoring of the supplier, with supplier ID being added to the inspection data as of 22 January 2022 to enable supplier specific data to be collected.
- Industry communications through articles in the industry newsletter, The Vine.
Project activities have been progressing smoothly over the last reporting period, with ongoing monitoring of retailer quality data and in-store sampling conducted each week. Maturity results are published weekly on the online portal for key grape varieties/types and individual benchmarking data provide to key retailers.
Monitoring was also conducted in Emerald, Mildura and Robinvale for a four-week period prior to the indicative (historical) season start date and results circulated to growers, suppliers and retailers to mitigate the temptation to start the season before fruit is mature with acceptable eating quality.
The team report the following activities and outcomes since the last project update.
- Two alignment workshops were conducted with all stakeholders, ensuring representative attendance across retailers (including Costco and Metcash) and producers
- Agreement was obtained from large scale retailers to share distribution centre (DC) testing and quality control (QC) inspection data with the project team
- Tailored training and guidance were provided to each retailer for the QC inspection teams within DCs
- Existing retailer grape testing methodologies were calibrated to ensure consistency across retailers and that full traceability is provided back to the grower
- Retailer QC data was collated into a database for interrogation and extraction of insights
- Weekly performance summaries were provided to each retailer, detailing performance in meeting the MMS
- In-store maturity monitoring was undertaken, with nine samples taken per week for 20 weeks
- Engagement and communication with growers, suppliers and the wider industry emphasises that retailers will be closely testing and inspecting their fruit
- A grower survey was conducted to gauge understanding and buy-in for the project and to guide further actions required to aid grower adoption
- Project progress and key details were shared with growers and industry via newsletters, e-newsletters, webinars, and meetings when possible.
A pre-season Stakeholder Working Group workshop was formed including the five largest growers, suppliers and aggregators and the three major retailers in efforts to align key stakeholders and refine activities across the life of the project.
2020-21 pre-season Grower Roadshows were held online to present information on the importance of consistent fruit quality for consumers, how minimum maturity standards (MMS) help improve quality and how retailers manage the grape category.
On-farm MMS monitoring has been conducted in the Emerald region. Emerald data was collected with sampling and measurement for eight weeks during the start of the season. Maturity information was provided to growers and retailers to advise them when early fruit is achieving the MMS.
Retail monitoring has been conducted in Melbourne retail stores for white, red and black grapes.
A weekly performance summary is being provided to each retailer, via a secure online access (ClickData Platform), detailing individual retailer performance in meeting the MMS and how this compares to the industry average.
This program is a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Table Grape Fund