Arrivals of New Zealand kiwifruit began in mid-May and could be in the U.S. market until mid-October, depending on variety and the pace of sales.
Mount Maunganui, New Zealand-based Zespri International Ltd. is the sole exporter of upward of 100 million trays annually.
The cooperative represents more than 2,700 grower owners.
“We’ll see a slight increase in overall volume here in the U.S. and Canada,” said Michele Hoard, Zespri’s marketing manager for North America.
“SunGold has increased, organic volumes have had only a slight increase and green conventional is down.”
“Shortness of supply of green may reduce the window on kiwifruit to the first part of September,” said Jason Bushong, division manager of Giumarra Wenatchee, Wenatchee, Wash.
Zespri is still gauging the potential for growth in the organic market, Hoard said June 11, but the company sees opportunity in the overall rise in organic produce sales. Zespri offers green and SunGold, a yellow-fleshed variety, in organic as well as conventional.
The Oppenheimer Group is offering greater quantities of Zespri organic kiwifruit than it has in several years, said Steve Woodyear-Smith, tropical category director for the Vancouver, British Columbia-based marketer.
That’s following a trend of mainstreaming organic produce in the U.S. and Canada.
“We are very excited to offer more organic green this season,” Woodyear-Smith said. “Demand is high across our supply chain.”
Oppenheimer is offering organic kiwifruit as a way for retailers to capitalize on New Zealand’s reputation for sustainable growing practices.
Oppy also anticipates a considerable uptick in its offering of SunGold, available through October.
“It’s proving to have substantial appeal to those who prefer a sweeter kiwifruit flavor,” Woodyear-Smith said. It grows sweeter as it softens. Ideal eating firmness is 1.3 to 1.8 pounds force, when brix levels are optimal.
The SunGold, 10 years in development, was introduced in 2012 to replace gold varieties devastated by the vine disease pseudomonas syringae pv actinidiae, or Psa.
This April, Zespri entered it in the new product award competition at the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s annual convention and trade show.
Because the variety remains relatively new, Oppy marketing efforts will support retail demos to build familiarity and promote trial. Zespri and Oppy also partner to offer retailers promotional materials for the broader kiwifruit offering.
“The gold kiwifruit in New Zealand will be ramping up in the next few years, so there will be some good opportunities in the U.S.,” Bushong said.
“Zespri will be working with all of our distributors to build brand equity through health messaging, point-of-sale material, sampling, social media, dieticians, public relations, research and development and recipe development,” Hoard said.
Psa remains an issue for New Zealand and kiwifruit growing regions outside the U.S., Hoard said.
“Zespri Growers have spent a lot of time and funded learning on orchard management practices to help manage our vines through Psa,” she said.
That information is shared online with other growing regions, part of an effort to support kiwifruit production and demand worldwide.
Beyond the SunGold, Zespri’s development efforts include a long-term target of an edible or easily peeled skin. That could take about a decade.
So far cultivars with those qualities have fallen short on one or more other qualities, such as taste, storage life or resistance to Psa.