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Salute to Evan Meirion Williams

By Charles Hughes

It is with sincere regret that we hear of the sad passing of Evan Meirion Williams on Saturday April 24.

Meirion had a long career joining Elgin Fruit Juices in the 1980s from Coleman Foods, a division of Reckitt and Coleman where he was involved in both the Marketing and Sales divisions at senior level both in South Africa and Norwich in the United Kingdom.

On his return to South Africa, he joined Elgin Fruit Juices tasked with developing a competitive Tetrapak retail product to compete against Ceres Fruit Juices, having developed and launched the successful Robinsons Juices in the UK.

For sound commercial reasons, this project was abandoned and he became the General Manager of Elgin Fruit Packers Co-Operative (Elfco) tasked to build the Two-a-Day brand on the domestic market within the growing retail segment via Elpaco, later to become Two-a-Day Marketing.

In the late 1980s, Meirion had the foresight to realize that Elfco was faced annually with above inflationary prices of packaging materials which represented a large part of packhouse costs.

Being a forward-thinking strategist Meirion convinced the Board of Two-a-Day to consider creating their own corrugated carton company. This led to a joint venture company called APL Cartons in Worcester together with Kromco, Ceres Fruit Growers, and Goode Hoop Citrus which started production in 1989. Later Sundays River Citrus Company became the fifth partner. Today this company has become a major cost reduction contributor to both shareholders and customers alike.

As soon as Nelson Mandela was released in 1990, Meirion realised that change was inevitable and that the fruit industry was faced with the reality of a free market system.

Between the deregulation of 1996 and 1999, Meirion convinced the APL pome partners to stay the course and support Capespan in the core markets of the UK and EU to ensure market stability, knowing full well change was inevitable.

This inevitability led to the formation of Tru-Cape in 2001, together with Ceres Fruit Growers and Kromco.

Meirion served the interests of the Two-a-Day Group on the Boards of Unifruco and Capepan for a number of years always with the growers’ needs as a priority.

Meirion’s last action prior to retirement was to assist in the creation of Link Logistics, in essence completing the chain of service aspects, always to protect grower shareholder returns at the lowest level of cost.

Whilst Meirion may have been misunderstood for his actions, those of us who had the privilege to work with him truly knew that his foresight and free-spirited management style created wealth and stability within the Industry.

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