Only natural

Countryman

Squeezed, crushed, blended, pureed and frozen but never sweetened, coloured or preserved - and that's a Fruity Fanatics' promise.

Established in 2002, Fruity Fanatics creates frozen fruit delights and pure fruit juices from produce bought direct from growers.

One such source was Deborah and John Marten's 2000-tree orchard in Gingin. The second-generation farmers sold oranges to Fruity Fanatics for eight years, before the business was listed for sale in 2010.

Recognising an opportunity to diversify their farm business, the Martens bought Fruity Fanatics. They were already familiar with the workings of the enterprise and understood all of the components, from sourcing the fruit to processing, marketing and the time commitment required.

"Having been involved on the outside for a number of years, it was a natural progression when the opportunity to buy Fruity Fanatics presented itself," Deborah said.

Importantly, their existing farm was in reliable horticultural country, which has good water supplies. The property is close to Perth as well as popular country markets and festivals near the metropolitan area.

"We relocated the business to the farm and set up the kitchen close to source of the fruit," Deborah said.

With plans to expand the product range, the Martens knew that Fruity Fanatics would fit into their farm business structure. Their daughters, Rebekah and Kimberley - who had helped to plant the orchard when they were children - were able to lend a hand.

_Close to the source _

Having the kitchen close to the orchards means the fruit can processed straight after picking to retain maximum freshness and flavour.

"We grow the oranges and the mangos are picked within sight of the kitchen on a nearby property," Deborah said. "The apples, strawberries and watermelons are grown within an hour's drive of our farm, the passionfruit is grown in Wokalup and the bananas are from Carnarvon. Pineapple is the only fruit used that is not grown in WA.

"Being farmers ourselves, we go out of our way to buy locally and support local growers, even it means paying a little more."

The Fruity Fanatics range of juices, icy poles and fruit tubes are handcrafted, with five processes between harvesting the fruit and the end product.

"Because there are no preservatives and no additives, it all needs to be done quickly to keep the fruit cool. The original motto, 'Just Pure Fruit', is what Fruity Fanatics is all about," Deborah said.

"Our unique processing allows us to retain much of the natural goodness of fresh fruit.

"Juices are not strained, they still have all the fibre, just as you would if you did it at home."

Fruity Fanatics' healthy credentials have resulted in the business being awarded the 'Star Choice' green code for school canteens throughout Perth.

"It is labour-intensive. Bananas are peeled by hand and oranges are squeezed individually. The mangoes are peeled, de-pipped and packed for freezing. During summer, when we work three or four full days a week making icy poles, the extended family helps out," Deborah said.

"We need to be prepared to deliver small, saleable quantities often, because of the relatively short shelf life and to encourage retailers to try the product."

Karragullen apples are pressed with only the best quality first-run juice being used. The natural oxidation that takes place gives the juice a darker colour, which indicates that no preservatives have been added. The mangos, which are harvested over a six-week season, are grown in Gingin and frozen as 'cheeks'.

_Fresh Food Link _

When the Martens looked to add passionfruit to their range, the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) through the Fresh Food Link initiative helped them to find growers in Wokalup. At that point, the Wokalup growers only sold whole fruit, but after talking to the Martens they realised there was also a market for frozen pulp.

"Fresh Food Link is important, because farmers don't get many opportunities to attend professional development days, and the networking and chances of finding other growers is limited. We're just too busy," Deborah said. The Martens are also members of the Buy West Eat Best initiative.

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DAFWA development officer Yolandee Jones can help growers who require information on suppliers or retailers looking for products. For more information, contact the Small Landholder Information Service on 9733 7777

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