North America is set to be Zespri's next kiwifruit growing territory as consumer demand there soars for its Sungold variety. Chief executive Dan Mathieson said Sungold sales jumped 32 per cent this year in the US and Canada.
Trials are underway to grow the fruit locally to meet demand in what is becoming a major target market for the Mount Maunganui-headquartered global kiwifruit marketer. Total Zespri sales in North America this year will be 8.2 million trays, compared to 5.1m last year, Mathieson said.
Sungold fruit comprised 4.7m trays, compared to 3.3m last year while 2.6 million green fruit trays were sold against 1.3m. Zespri also cashed in on what Mathieson called an organic foods boom across North America, with 640,000 organic fruit trays sold compared to 370,000 last year.
Much of the Sungold fruit for North America was sourced from Zespri's Italian growers. Zespri has been pushing hard into North America for about four years. Its target consumer cities include New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Los Angeles and Boston.
The New Zealand kiwifruit harvest kicks off about March. Zespri transitions to supplies from its northern hemisphere-contracted growers in Italy in September to fill the gap until New Zealand orchards are producing again. Zespri-branded fruit is also grown in France, Japan and Korea for those markets.
According to an article on nzherald.co.nz, around 150 million trays, equivalent to 520,000 tonnes of kiwifruit were shipped in the New Zealand season this year. Zespri's revenue was $2.4 billion in the 2018 financial year.
"I think for the foreseeable future the majority of our fruit will be grown in New Zealand. As we look out in our 10 year plan towards 2025 it will still be about 80 per cent New Zealand and 20 per cent grown in the northern hemisphere for those four or five months when we can't supply from New Zealand," Mathieson said.
"What we are focused on at the moment is trying to create sources of really great quality fruit outside New Zealand. But rather than going far and wide we want to focus in, and we see Italy as a really good opportunity to do that. It's very similar to New Zealand and we believe we can scale up production more quickly there than in other areas. That will be our focus."