Charlie’s deal boost for fruit producers

Posted by Josette Dunn on 25th October 2010

The news that Australasian premium beverage company Charlie’s Group Australia has sold in to 750 Coles stores nation-wide is a big boost for fruit growers in the South Australian region.Charlie’s produces its ‘not from concentrate’ juices and smoothies from a Renmark (S.A.) production unit established in 2008 especially to take advantage of the region’s prolific citrus production. Coles is stocking 11 of Charlie’s products nationally with the deal having the potential to double the size of Charlie’s Group Australia.

Spearheading the range is Charlie’s Old Fashioned lemonade. It is supported by a further 10 Charlie’s products including the brand’s famed Spirulina Smoothie, eight of which will be available in 750 Coles supermarkets across Australia from early November. The deal is so big Charlie’s needs to squeeze around four million extra lemons every year – a 300 per cent increase – just to meet the demand for the Old Fashioned Quencher range.

South Australia’s Minister for Agriculture, Food and Regional Development, Michael O’Brien, welcomed Charlie’s investment. “This is a terrific vote of confidence in the Riverland and South Australia as a place to do business,” Mr O’Brien said. “Extra jobs will be created and new opportunities will emerge for South Australian citrus producers to grow lemons and supply a high-value market. “The Government has assisted Charlie’s with its expansion and commends the company on successfully negotiating a nationwide supply agreement.”

Charlie’s Group CEO Stefan Lepionka says the Australian juice market is very well developed and a tough one to crack. “Our ‘not from concentrate’ positioning has proven its value,” he says. “We believe our success with the Coles deal is due in no small part to the fact we use the best ingredients and have innovative, honest and fun packaging.” Charlie’s sales team has been working on the deal with Coles for more than 12 months and the Charlie’s Quenchers and Smoothies have been trialled in 37 selected stores across the country. “Now, Coles is rolling out our brand nationally backed by in-store marketing programs starting in November. This is very big news for Charlie’s and comes on the back of 39 per cent growth in Australia last financial year.”

Mr Lepionka says the deal will bring 30-35 per cent extra volume through the production facility set up in 2008. He says Australia’s warm climate and 22 million people provide significant potential for Charlie’s. The product launch is backed by an in-store marketing program and a “cheeky” consumer marketing launch. Based in New Zealand, the Charlie’s brand was launched in Australia only two years ago and along with the company’s other brand Phoenix Organics, has gained favour in some of the nation’s trendiest cafés, restaurants and hotels. Lepionka says it is those establishments that drive choice and opinion and by proving itself in them, Charlie’s has grown demand among a wider customer and consumer base.

Charlie’s varieties ranged by Coles in Australia are Old Fashioned Lemonade Quencher, Mango and Orange Quencher and Raspberry Quencher. Smoothie flavours ranged include Berry, Spirulina, Guava and Mango. There are 750 Coles supermarkets in Australia with 100,000-plus employees and more than 11 million customer transactions every week. Charlie’s Group reported record earnings of $3.4 million in the year to June 30, 2010. It achieved 39 per cent sales growth in Australia and 33 per cent growth in other export markets.

About Charlie’s: Charlie’s Group Limited is a New Zealand owned company listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange and operating principally in the Australasian market. The company manufactures and markets a range of ‘not from concentrate’ fruit juices as well as smoothies and organic beverages. Principal brands are Charlie’s and Phoenix Organics. The business was established by friends Stefan Lepionka (CEO), Marc Ellis (director) and Simon Neal (distribution manager) in 1999 and floated on the New Zealand Stock Exchange in July 2005. Charlie’s operates in New Zealand and Australia and exports to territories in Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent.