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Zespri tries to whet American appetite for kiwifruit

Friday 18th October 2019

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Zespri says research has become a bigger part of its marketing mix as it reverts to basics to increase sales in the US. 

The US is a comparatively recent market for Zespri which has previously looked to China and Japan for growth. The kiwifruit marketer opened a pan-American office in 2017. 

Last year, US sales reached almost $100 million, an annual increase of 50 percent, and Zespri chief grower David Courtney says this season will see even more fruit sold. 

Volume to the US will account for about 7 million of the 140 million trays it expects to sell, with sales driven by the SunGold variety, Courtney says. 

“The US has been a green market, with fruit from either from Chile or California, so we see gold as the opportunity to open up the market to the different taste profile,” Courtney says. 

Courtney was in Auckland for the Export NZ Go Global conference where he addressed 260 exporters on how to customise their marketing regionally. 

He says the United States is a relatively underdeveloped market for kiwifruit where it is number 21 in the overall fruit bowl - in Europe and Asia it sits in the top 10. 

In more developed markets such as China and Japan, which are the Zespri’s top sales generators, more sophisticated messaging is required such as the fruit's nutritional value. 

In the US, Zespri tries to just get people to buy kiwifruit, Courtney says. 

US sales are hoped to drive Zespri toward its sales goal of $4.5 billion by 2025. In the 12 months ended March 31, global kiwifruit sales and licence release revenue broke the $3 billion mark for the first time.

Global trade uncertainty has little impact on Zespri presently as it moves little into the United Kingdom and if anything tariffs had hurt US exporters wanting to get their fruit into China, Courtney says. 

“We manage it accordingly but anything that upsets the global confidence in trade - we export 99 percent of our fruit - is unhelpful.” 

Zespri is still finalising the commercialisation of red kiwifruit, which could be grafted by growers as early as the middle of next year if it goes ahead. Zespri is still testing how well the fruit travels. 

In the March year, tray volumes were up 21 percent at 138.6 million. Net profit after tax was up 77.6 percent at $179.8 million. 

Zespri shares are traded on the Unlisted platform. They last traded at $8.90, from $8.20 at the beginning of the year. 


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