Kiwifruit is the second highest-selling specialty fruit behind the mango, but some experts say more promotion is needed to increase consumption.
According to Nielsen Perishables Group data, kiwifruit retail sales came in just under $100 million during the past year.
Short supplies led to a 6% average retail price increase, which fueled a 3% decline in volume, said West Dundee, Ill.-based Nielsen senior marketing manager Kelli Beckel.
Yet the higher prices were able to boost dollar sales by 3%, Beckel said.
Retail consultant Dick Spezzano, owner of Spezzano Consulting Service in Monrovia, Calif., said North American consumption remains low compared to countries such as Germany and Japan, partly because nobody here is marketing kiwifruit to drive sales.
“At one time the New Zealand Kiwi Commission was extremely aggressive, but after the California commission sued them for dumping and won, they went away,” he said.
“Then we had the California Kiwi Commission for marketing and promotion, but with most of the money pulled back they now focus on research and development.”
Most retailers consider kiwifruit insignificant, he said, so they don’t promote them.
The one bright spot Spezzano sees is companies such as Pasadena, Calif.-based Sun Pacific Marketing offering pre-ripened kiwifruit at retail, which he describes as the biggest lift in kiwifruit in 10 years.
“Kiwi goes by brix and dry matter,” he said. “At the beginning of the season you don’t have a lot of dry matter, so if you don’t condition them at all, they’ll stay hard and inedible for three to five weeks.”
Jason Bushong, division manager for Giumarra Wenatchee, Wenatchee, Wash., said promoting the kiwifruit’s health attributes — more potassium than two bananas and more vitamin C than an orange — helps promote kiwifruit sales.
The growing number of Asians and Hispanics, who eat more tropical fruit than the average American, should also increase consumption, said Tristan Simpson, senior director of marketing and corporate communications for Irwindale, Calif.-based Ready Pac Foods Inc.
Simpson said Ready Pac adds domestic kiwifruit to its seasonal fresh-cut fruit blends for nutrition and color.
Steve Woodyear-Smith, tropical category director for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, said he thinks kiwifruit lost their luster for a while with inconsistent supply and a lack of promotion, but things are looking up.
“We’re seeing an increase in availability and awareness, and in our ability to communicate to the consumer,” Woodyear-Smith said.
The growth in high-graphic 1- to 4-pound bags and clamshells allows companies to communicate through packaging, he said, and gives retailers an extra stock-keeping unit to merchandise with loose fruit, which results in greater visibility for kiwifruit on the shelf.