GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ — Importer AMC Direct Inc., with U.S. headquarters in New Jersey, has made much headway in North America in the past few years, despite the fact that the company has been flying under the radar.
With consumption of imported fruit, like AMC’s South African summer citrus, on the rise, the company is becoming more visible in the Americas.
In early July, as the season’s first shipment of South African citrus arrived, AMC officials were hobnobbing on the dock in Gloucester City with South African Consul for Trade Affairs Gugulethu Gingqi, further proof that the company is ready for the spotlight.
“We intentionally came into the U.S. under the radar and for the last three or four years we’ve really been quiet,” AMC National Accounts Manager Casey Kio said.
“We’ve been lucky with AMC because we are able to supply 12 months a year. We have an office in Spain, we have an office in South Africa, we have an office in Chile,” said AMC Vice President of Operations Miles Fraser-Jones. “We’re dynamic, we’re flexible, we’re a young team and we’re able to react. This summer we’ve grown tenfold to what we were last summer and the previous summer. We started small, but we’re growing every year picking up another one or two retail accounts, which is what we strive for, so we’re definitely growing our categories. People know us now. Now the phones are ringing.”
Consumer awareness at the supermarket is helping drive that success. “Consumers now are more aware, they’re becoming more educated, they’re beginning to understand where the product is coming from,” said Kio.
“Definitely in the last four years there’s been more emphasis and more promotional pushing of South Africa and that’s made people more aware of us,” said Fraser-Jones. “There is definitely a need for summer citrus and I think the [South African] flavor profile is the best that’s out there. You see repeat sales. If it tastes bad consumers aren’t going to go buy it again.”
“It’s not just any orange that’s at the store in the summer anymore,” added Kio.
The rising popularity of the Cara Cara orange and the Meyer lemon is a testament to an increasing consumer IQ.
“Cara Cara is definitely becoming more sought after. Four years ago it was a struggle to sell them,” Fraser-Jones said.
“Food Network and recipes that call for varieties are driving interest. We’re seeing a move even on the retailer side to call out the variety — consumers don’t just want to see a Navel orange anymore, they want to know what the variety is,” Kio said. “We have a [breeding] company that’s part of AMC so we’re working on the future of citrus — what’s going to be the next Cara Cara? Customers are going out looking for that because that recipe says Cara Cara orange.”
The increasingly popularity of South African fruit has growers focused on creating a premium product.
“The growers know the U.S. market is a big market that needs to be tapped into. They realize it is a quality market and they’re putting their effort into producing premium fruit,” Fraser-Jones said. “The U.S. is consistently, for the growers, probably their best market. Over the last 15 years they’ve been shipping here, year-over-year the US. provides better returns. Because it’s a premium market they are trying to send a better product and it’s paying off.”