Quality, Quality, Quality: Linda De Nadai
Across China, Unifrutti’s lemons are considered the gold standard in terms of quality. The South African company entered the market two decades ago and has worked hard to establish a strong reputation for its brand there. So it was a strange sort of compliment when counterfeiters in the country began producing fake Unifrutti lemons a few years ago.
Prices of the citrus fruit were booming and thecounterfeiters knew that moving the product under the brand name of the multinational company would be lucrative. But it fought back. “Last year, we took a very strong stand against it. We basically stopped it at departure. It wasn’t easy because of the whole COVID-19 situation,” says Linda De Nadai, Unifrutti South Africa CEO.
“It’s strange because you wouldn’t think that people would want to fake a fruit brand. You’d think that they’d concentrate on other things,” she reflects. “But this just proves to me that the value add that we put in the brand is significant. So, in a way, it makes me proud to think that we are being imitated, but it does present an issue and we needed to stop it.”
It is this emphasis on excellence that sets the company apart from competitors. “We are known as the quality company. People within the industry identify the Unifrutti brand with the quality product,” Linda reveals.
In the South African market, another factor that distinguishes Unifrutti is its widely dispersed supply chain. “If I compare us to the average South African exporter, we have a very diversified geographic situation in terms of where we are sourcing the fruit in South Africa, which gives us a more extended sales capacity.”
The company also produces more than 50% of what it exports, giving it firm control over the availability of products and the volumes it ships. Dealing mostly or solely with third-party suppliers would create more uncertainty, as the company would have less of an idea about what is going on in the orchards.
“We are very careful about what are the right nutrients to apply to the land without having any kind of health issues.”
This is also an advantage globally, and another plus for the company at this level is that it has sister companies in the various markets, meaning it can adopt a more integrated sales approach to reach the end consumer.