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Innovation and interactions

The development of Zespri Gold Kiwifruit in the 1990s, as a new variety, is probably their best known innovation.

However in 2010 three new varieties were introduced. Two of these have gold flesh (initially being marketed as Zespri SunGold) and include characteristics such as being able to be harvested earlier or stored longer, therefore extending the potential selling time. Both varieties will extend the current Zespri Gold offering and from an orchard perspective have high yields.

The other new variety, known currently as sweet green, has all the attributes of the current green variety but is sweeter and therefore appealing to a different palate, particularly in Asian markets. Within the next 12 months, small amounts of these new varieties will be for sale in both Japan and Taiwan. It is planned that within two years, production increases mean they will also be on the shelves in most other major markets.

Checking fruit integrity. Man standing next to a tractor in a kiwifruit orchard looking at fruit in his hands.

The kiwifruit industry has invested a great deal of resources into ensuring that when the product reaches the market shelves it is in a condition that enables it to be consumed immediately. Historically the fruit was purchased and then had to be left for quite some time before it ripened and was ready to eat.

Priorities for research included:

  • the right time and way to harvest the fruit to ensure optimum flavour
  • the application of natural ethylene gas to ripen the fruit more quickly
  • the carriage temperature on board the ships during transit to ensure fruit firmness is upheld
  • the in-market ripening processes, controls, and consistency checks.

For Zespri, factors influencing fruit quality and ripeness are fundamental to having premium quality. The results of this research have enabled the fruit to be in optimum state at the most effective time, giving the industry up to two weeks more selling time, equating to around another 10% extension to sales.

Our Innovation Portfolio is broad and includes such areas as: health and nutrition, sustainability, market access, orchard productivity and of course new product development.

In short, with our track record, we have earned the right to grow and the future is bright. I know we have the vision and determination to grasp it. Today, as we look to the future, we see clear opportunities to grow.

Lain Jager – ZESPRI CEO

Business interactions

Industry planning to ensure all aspects of the business are working effectively is crucial. Zespri’s role is to manage all interest groups and balance their competing needs:

  • Retailers and distributors want to know the fruit is of a high standard.
  • Growers want to know as much of their fruit as possible is making it to market in good quality.
  • Suppliers want their fruit to be better than any of their competitors.
Large conveyer with kiwifruit and workers in white caps picking up fruit as part of the grading process.

On shore interactions are continually taking place with the pack-houses, growers, packaging companies, and government owned innovation organisations such as Plant & Food Research, government agencies such as Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and New Zealand Customs.

Offshore these interactions are focused at the importer and distributor, retailer, consumer, and government level.

Zespri staff work to ensure their principle focus is on ensuring the returns they receive for the fruit they provide is at the highest possible level.

Growers are charged a set commission that is negotiated every 3 years, which is about 7.5% of total sales on average. Ongoing interactions with growers take place in a number of ways. This includes:

  • grower liaison personnel whose role is to be out working with growers face-to-face
  • a call centre who deal with queries and respond to issues from the head office
  • specific product groups; for example, category development groups have up to eight grower representatives who meet with the Zespri team on a monthly basis to discuss strategic issues related to their product.

An industry advisory council group also meets regularly to discuss issues and develop industry strategy and is made up of representatives from Zespri, together with growers and supply companies (pack-houses). In this way, extensive consultation and interaction takes place throughout the year.

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