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Going global

After the first exports to the UK in the 1950s, there was a focus on supplying to Europe and the United States (US). While the connection to the US has diminished over time, Europe still sells around 50% of the product.

Over time the business has evolved to focus more towards Asia, specifically Japan, which has been the biggest market in Asia for some time. During the 1970s New Zealand began to develop stronger relationships with Japan as an export partner. This relationship was built around a rise in Japanese wealth and their ability to pay good prices, combined with New Zealand having a relatively expensive production base for most things.

Advertising in Asia.

In the first instance, Japan was the entry point for kiwifruit into Asia, followed by the discerning and relatively wealthy market of Taiwan. More recently this has lead to markets in Singapore, Korea, and China. The market in China has grown from .5 million trays in 2001 up to over 7 million in 2010. This can be attributed to a growing middle class with more wealth and an awareness of the health and nutrition properties of food. The sweeter Zespri Gold variety is particularly well received by Asian consumers.

Success in these markets depends on having the right relationships and while these take time to build, Zespri has now established many long-term relationships. The search for potential distributors can have mixed results and is a long-term process. Time spent working on developing these mutually beneficial, long-term relationships is critical to the success of the business. Activities that support this include:

  • regular attendance at trade fairs
  • hosting customer tours to New Zealand to visit orchards
  • investing heavily in marketing and merchandise to support sales.


Zespri is now in the fortunate position within many of its Asian markets of having a successful network of importers and distributors with good connections to the retail trade. Having a high proportion of locally sourced staff is an important factor in their business model, with the Asian team comprised of a blend of local and New Zealand staff. These staff not only have relevant knowledge of business practices but also a depth of understanding related to cultural awareness. However, it is important to remember that every country is very different and there is no uniform approach that works well. Recognising the diversity of culture in Asia is very important to business success.


The broad challenges facing Zespri marketing fruit across all markets is a tendency for people to be eating more manufactured products and fast food, and competing against the many lower cost fruit products available.

In fact, kiwifruit only represents 0.25% of the global fruit bowl – a tiny amount when compared alongside fruit such as bananas and apples. Furthermore, now that many retailers are owned by multinational organisations they have significant influence on pricing and sourcing of product. These businesses tend to be totally price-driven, especially given the economic events of recent times. As kiwifruit is more of a top-end fruit product, sitting in the middle-to-upper price bracket, Zespri needs to work hard to continually overcome these challenges. This is particularly true in Asia where there are numerous tropical fruit competitors and other varieties competing for shelf space. In China, for example, there are numerous varieties of Kiwifruit grown locally, which Zespri fruit must also compete against.

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