Every year, many rural communities in Zimbabwe find themselves staring at more guavas than they know what to do with. Schweppes, one of the country’s biggest beverage makers, has a plan for them.
Through its subsidiary Beitbridge Juicing, Schweppes is running a grove-to-glass project, taking fruit from rural guava forests and straight up the value chain to juice boxes and jam bottles on supermarket shelves.
Zimbabwe does not have formal guava orchards. However, what it does have are large guava forests in areas such as Zaka, Mhondoro, Mahusekwa, Hwedza and Zvimba. Schweppes is working with communities in these areas to collect guavas for processing.
“Community empowerment and beneficiation has become key in all our new and upcoming projects. Our approach transcends good corporate citizenry; we are ploughing back and ensuring that communities grow as we grow. We are developing a business model that creates synergistic benefits and economic gains to all players across the value chain,” says Schweppes Managing Director Charles Msipa.
The harvested guavas are sent to Schweppes plants and used as a base for cordial drinks and other value added products, Msipa says.
He adds: “To date, we have empowered over 2000 households predominantly women and youths who are involved in the project. We collect an annual target tonnage of 1500 and from which approximately USD $150,000 has been invested to date. All payments to communities are remitted at source.”
The guavas are used for Schweppes brands such as such as Farmstyle Guava Jam and a new Minute Maid Guava brand.
Says Schweppes: “Within the broader industry context, our grove to glass intervention is substituting imports of raw materials (base concentrates used in formulation) through local sourcing as we also sell and export to other beverages manufacturers both locally and across the region.”
Schweppes, maker of the Mazoe orange juice, bought Beitbridge Juicing in 2014, after citrus supply from its traditional sources in the Mazowe valley was disrupted by land takeovers. At the time of the deal, the Beitbridge estate supplied 75% of Schweppes’ juice needs.
Sunrise Citrus Estates, a Schweppes subsidiary, is setting up a 2,700 citrus plantation in Beitbridge, from where the company will make juice for the domestic and export markets.