Apple grower Fergus McLachlan is the architect of a deal to supply 3.5 million litres of apple and pear juice annually to Lion’s West End Brewery in Adelaide. Under the deal Lion will use South Australian juice for a significant share of its Australian apple cider production, replacing Victorian apple juice. The juice will be supplied by Monarto juice processor JVJ Co, a partnership between major Riverland apple grower Rivercorp Land & Water Limited and the Lenswood Cold Stores Cooperative Society.
Rivercorp and JVJ Co chief executive, Mr McLachlan, said the deal will help JVJ lift employment from five to 10 people, while providing a major boost for the South Australian horticultural industry. JVJ started operations six months ago in a new juicing plant at Monarto to produce juice from surplus apples supplied by Lenswood from its various apple growers including Rivercorp. “This is a massive turning point for JVJ and will help us double our staff,” Mr McLachlan said.
Under the deal, Rivercorp, a former Managed Investment Scheme company, and Lenswood, the state’s larger packer and marketer, will supply juice to JVJ for processing and it will become the exclusive supplier of fresh juice to Lion. JVJ Co produces more than 100,000 litres of juice a week at its apple processing and juicing facility in Monarto, drawing apple juice from Lenswood and Rivercorp.
Mr McLachlan said the idea started when a hailstorm ruined 2500 tonnes of apples in 2014, leaving him with a major crop loss. Rivercorp produces about 5000 tonnes of apples from 240ha of apple orchards each year. He approached the West End Brewery and soon realised it had a supply problem and was happy to secure a guaranteed supply of juice from South Australia.
Mr McLachlan said the Riverland is a difficult place to grow apples because the climate is warming, but Rivercorp has improved the outlook for its crops by netting them to provide shade and protection from hail. Ironically, the hailstorm in the past few days passed north of Rivercorp’s Riverland apple orchards and they suffered no damage. “The SA apple industry is undergoing some significant challenges, but the ability to create a profitable market for our blemished fruit has offered a genuine buffer for the business,” Mr McLachlan said.
The long-term supply arrangement is aimed at improving the profitability of apple growing by lifting the price for its products through the addition of a large new market for juice produced from secondary apples. Mr McLachlan said it will consider other opportunities to add value to its products including a range of products such as its own fresh apple juice and cider ranges and stock feeds for cattle and sheep feedlotting. West End brewing director Lars Christiansen said that since the cidery opened in June 2014, it has reached annual production of more than 11 million litres of cider a year including James Squire Orchard Crush Apple and Pear ciders, Kirin Apple and Pear ciders and 5 Seed ciders.
“The JVJ agreement will enable more ciders to be produced at the cidery to build an already popular beverage category,” Mr Christiansen said. The national cider market is growing by 5.1 per cent annually and benefits from the deal are expected to include consistent quality and reliability of supply from JVJ, only an hour away. Its new juicing and storage facility at Monarto was enabled by a $9.1 million grant Rivercorp received through the Irrigation Industry Improvement Program (3IP), a joint initiative of the State and Federal Governments.