Limited supplies, high flavor support prices for NZ kiwifruit

06/21/2013 11:01:00 AM
Coral Beach

Zespri kiwifruitCourtesy OppyThese 1-pound handle bags tested well in select markets for The Oppenheimer Group in 2012, company officials said. The bags are back for 2013 and will be in wider distribution because of popular consumer response.Most produce marketers have good things to say about the flavor of their commodities as each new season begins, but this year Zespri has some hard numbers to back up its use of the word “vintage” to describe the New Zealand kiwifruit crop.

On-orchard sampling of kiwifruit shows the highest dry matter numbers on record for New Zealand’s signature fruit, said Michele Hoard, senior marketing manager for Zespri North America.

Zespri’s general marketing manager Carol Ward said she is confident the record numbers will translate into happy consumers and high demand.

The highest levels of sunshine in the growing regions since 1992, coupled with a dry winter, created perfect conditions, Ward said.

Dry matter corresponds to the sweetness of ripe fruit.

“Dry matter is up substantially in all our varieties,” Ward said. “The record levels are consistent across the industry, which means the overwhelming majority of Zespri kiwifruit fall into the highest taste category.”

Ward and Hoard said offshore marketing teams are reporting very strong repeat purchasing by consumers.

Volumes limited

The downside of the New Zealand kiwifruit deal this year is the impact the Psa disease has had on volumes.

Psa is a bacterial disease that kills kiwifruit vines. It was found in New Zealand in 2010.

Steve Woodyear-Smith, category director for tropicals at The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, said flavor is the silver lining for what will be a strategically challenging season.

He said rain delayed harvest by a week or more and resulted in the cancellation of one vessel destined for distribution in North America.

“Overall the volume is down for green and gold,” Woodyear-Smith said. “Promotional opportunities on the greens will be limited this season.”

Woodyear-Smith said there is a shortage of larger kiwifruit this year for gold and greens, mostly because of microclimate events in growing areas.

Jason Bushong, sales manager for Giumarra Wenatchee, a division of Los Angeles-based The Giumarra Cos. that also imports kiwifruit from New Zealand, agreed with the prediction of limited volumes.

He said the Psa disease had “devastated” the gold variety, but he still expects shipments in by late June.

Organic volumes, however, are up and will provide retailers with promotion opportunities, Woodyear-Smith said.

He said acreage has not increased, but yields in the organic orchards were better this year than usual.


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