Zespri’s has accelerated production of its golden kiwifruit variety to meet burgeoning demand across Asia.
Zespri president of global sales and marketing Dan Mathieson said Japan and China were the grower cooperative’s biggest markets in Asia, collectively earning about $900 million in sales last year.
He said the SunGold kiwifruit range had been particularly popular with Asian consumers who preferred its sweeter taste.
So much so, that in February Zespri announced the release of 1800 extra hectares of licences across producers in Italy over the next three years to meet its year-round kiwifruit supply strategy in all its markets.
READ MORE: * Zespri to quadruple gold kiwifruit production in Italy over next five years * Police probe into Zespri-owned gold kiwifruit plant material sent to China * Whittaker’s scoping new Asian markets * New Zealand manuka honey favourite in Asia * Simon Draper: Asia – what are we missing out on?
The Tauranga-based company was continuing its expansion into new markets with a greater focus on India and Southeast Asia.
While much smaller, Southeast Asian sales were nearing $50m and the fruit was quickly growing in popularity.
Mathieson said India was another key market, but moving into new markets came with challenges including raising awareness of the fruit in the region.
Research to find the right channel to advertise a product to more consumers was essential for Kiwi businesses trying to break into difficult markets, he said.
“Having campaigns that are really local, that incorporate culture, language and understand the local environments, are the best way to really resonate with your target consumer base,” Mathieson said.
In India Zespri used traditional advertising through television featuring a Bollywood celebrity, which generated both interest and demand.
But in China social media and e-commerce has played an important role in communicating with customers and had been more effective than print and poster marketing, he said.
Last year Zespri allocated $100m of its global sales and marketing budget to digital communication and e-commerce.
Almost 10 per cent of its total sales to China were sold using e-commerce this year, a number expected to triple in the next three years Mathieson said.
“It’s a really good way for us to get our kiwifruit to the consumer as efficiently as possible and also converse with them and get feedback in real time.”
Zespri has 2500 growers in New Zealand and 1200 overseas.
Mathieson said a lack of cold storage facilities in Southeast Asia also posed a challenge for the business.
“While in Japan, China and Korea there are very well established cold storage systems, in Taiwan and Southeast Asia the cool chain isn’t as developed for fresh produce.
“We’re working very closely with the operation in each market to make sure we’re getting that kiwifruit into the supermarket,” he said.
Earlier this month Zespri the company warned of a possible breach of Zespri’s plant variety rights in China.
Chief operating officer Simon Limmer said in a statement the company was taking “concerted action to protect and control its intellectual property”.
As Zespri continued to scope new markets, Mathieson said understanding a market’s demographics and building a strong relationships with local retailers abroad remained vital to growing its brand.