UK's banana ripening leaders SH Pratt Group getting boost from new Halo packhouse

UK’s banana ripening leaders SH Pratt Group getting boost from new Halo packhouse

S. Virani
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Gavin Knight, managing director, calls Halo “the leanest, independent, added-value service offering for the chill, fresh and frozen food industry.”

Meet Gavin Knight. He’s the Managing Director of Halo, a part of the SH Pratt Group umbrella, known industrywide for its banana ripening excellence and expertise. Recently, SH Pratt launched Halo, a new bespoke temperature packhouse at DP World London Gateway.

The SH Pratt Group, an exhibitor at this year’s London Produce Show and Conference, has a powerful history of advancing all aspects of the banana industry. It started in 1947 when founder Bob Wells supplied small greengrocers with a variety of produce. Fast forward 70 years and SH Pratt is one of the biggest import, ripening and fruit distributers in the UK for bananas. It also established an industry-leading haulage business called Kinship, with a fleet of chilled vehicles focused on the chilled sector.

Currently situated in Luton, SH Pratt, owned by Robert Wells, has grown dramatically in size, from zero to now turning over £158 million per annum.

Produce Business UK sat down with Knight to understand more about the services of SH Pratt Group, banana ripening, and Halo the new independent service provider for the chill, fresh and frozen sectors.

What would you say is SH Pratt’s main service now in 2018 to the produce industry?

We are essentially a “plant 2 plate” supplier, managing the supply chain from the field to the fork, ensuring the product is at its optimum for quality and cost, whilst minimising its carbon footprint.

We have the ability to deliver service provisions as required by our customers, allowing them the flexibility to procure their own fruit but using our expertise in ripening. In addition, we source and supply our own SH Pratt brand of bananas to major customers.

It is said that you ripen enough bananas a week that, if they were placed end to end would circle the M25 motorway more than 20 times. How is this managed? 

It’s a complex operation utilizing the expertise within the business to bring in thousands of pallets of fruit per week. Quality is checked upon arrival and monitored by our expert ripening team, who have over 300 years combined experience to help deliver the best-quality products for our customers.

Could you tell us a little about where the bananas are sourced? Local, Fairtrade? Organic?

The bananas mainly come from Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Colombia and Ecuador. Nearly all our conventional bananas are Rainforest Alliance, some Organic and some Fairtrade. We pride ourselves in ensuring all our fruit is responsibly sourced. Our technical and procurement teams work closely with growers, monitoring standards and certifications to ensure that our fruit always meets our customers’ expectations.

Let’s talk about Halo, your new facility in the Port of London Gateway, to improve logistics and create a more sustainable supply chain at the port. What was the main push to open this?

Halo is a state-of-the-art, multi-temperature, product-handling facility at DP World London Gateway.

It’s an innovation — and also a disruptor — set up to challenge the current inefficient supply chains, adding value, whilst removing cost, removing time and reducing the carbon footprint. Halo is simply the leanest, independent, added-value service offering for the chill, fresh and frozen food industry.

Our position at DP World London Gateway is a game-changer, not only for the Southern Hemisphere volumes that will benefit from massive inbound cost savings but also for the Northern Hemisphere volumes regardless of the point of entry to the UK. There are currently 22 scheduled Southern Hemisphere routes in service. We are confident that we will be the leanest and fastest operator in terms of redistribution across the UK.

When it comes to produce handling, we really have set out to raise the bar on this, as well as the services available. Specifically speaking, we can now offer a range of services, from as simple as a full pallet or case-pick, to a sophisticated added-value service and ripening all with quality, technical and food safety management. Whatever the service, it will be overlaid with a transparent reporting system, allowing our customers to access real-time accurate information.

What’s more, DP London Gateway is perfectly positioned close to the M25 and has unrivalled access to the rest of the UK. We are confident that this we will be able to pass on tangible savings to customers and reduce demurrage by offering a rapid turnaround.

By strategically being located here, Halo will be able to deliver on its commitments to the environment while also ensuring consumers get the freshest produce in the quickest time and with reduced waste.

Our launch date is slated for October.

Back in 2017 you claimed that “Halo will be operating the port’s first temperature-controlled, chilled and frozen packing, independent service division facility. The business will see us drawing on our expertise in packing and service provision to handle a range of new products including top-fruit, citrus and grapes.” Is this still an accurate portrayal of what’s in store?

We have yet to launch, but we remain very confident in our future and the challenge that lies ahead. We are recruiting a young, experienced and vibrant team to deliver an industry-leading service with enviable location-driven advantages.

Back to SH Pratt and bananas, in terms of the produce you offer, do you have any specific stories or news about any of them recently. Which are your most selling products? Which are the most challenging?

Our focus is purely on bananas, and we work with our customers to deliver a loose or packaged product to suit their needs. Whilst the product is not challenging, it comes with its own complications of seasonal weather and shipping delays. For example, a tropical storm at source can delay the picking and packing of fruit, lengthen shipping time or even affect the quality of a banana as it ripens. We have an experienced team who are used to pre-empting and managing many of these challenges.

What are the main challenges you face in the UK marketplace? What has challenged and equally advanced your services as one of the leading ripeners in the country?

It’s a competitive marketplace, and we have adapted our approach to work more directly with our growers and build strong relationships to enable a consistent yet flexible supply chain.

Since your operations have an effect on the local, regional and global environment, how do you regulate processes?

All of our growers are Global Gap certified as a minimum requirement, with all either Rainforest Alliance or Organic & Fairtrade certificated to allow us to supply to our customers’ needs. We have invested in renewable energy supplies for our ripening centre in the UK and we have a policy of trying to maximise our load fill within our logistics division.

Finally, let’s talk about the London Produce Show. Is it your first time presenting there? What do you expect from the show? What can people expect from you?

Yes, it’s our first show. As a new company, it’s important to promote our profile. It is also equally important for us to clearly communicate to ensure that everyone understands our business model and how this could translate into complimenting and enhancing any if not all of our potential customers businesses.

Register your attendance for the LPS18 here.

Explore the agenda for the event here. 

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