The numbers tell a promising story for organic kiwifruit, according to marketing agents in the category.
They point out that organics account for up to 15% of California production, according to the Sacramento-based Kiwifruit Administrative Committee.
Of the kiwifruit category as a whole, organics account for 6%, a figure that lags the KAC production ratio but still is positive, said Steve Woodyear-Smith, category director for tropicals at Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.
“If you look at all fruit, the average is 3.5% organic versus conventional,” Woodyear-Smith said. “Organic kiwifruit is performing admirably in the North American marketplace.”
Stellar Distributing Inc., Madera, Calif., has 9 acres of organic kiwifruit to go with 54 of conventional, said Kurt Cappelluti, sales manager.
He said organic production last year outpaced every other season he had seen, as part of an overall California crop that produced more than 9 million 7-pound tray equivalents.
He said there has been plenty of interest to match the volume.
All stores carry the fruit, including organics, so the inquiries continue to come in, Cappelluti said.
“As long as you don’t have a huge crop and people know how to sell it, it’s usually a fairly easy item to sell,” he said.
This year, California’s total combined organic and conventional volume is expected to drop off to the 6 million-tray level, which is closer to normal-sized state production, said Nick Matteis, assistant manager with the Kiwifruit Administrative Committee.
“I think more people are doing it, but not at a very quick rate,” he said.
For Capitola, Calif.-based Awe Sum Organics, sales in the last year have increased by about 20%, thanks in large part to high-graphic display bins that get the product noticed in retail stores, said David Posner, president and chief executive officer.
Each bin can hold a couple of volume-fill, or nearly 20-pound, cartons of fruit, Posner said.
“Sales were up almost 400% in stores that used it,” he said.
It’s a stark contrast to some retail approaches to organics, Posner said.
“We find, in organic sometimes, it’s not that visible and that’s what sort of hinders the sales,” he said.