The Zespri Board said in a news release the marketer has decided to commercialize a red kiwifruit variety for New Zealand growers.
The company said consumers in New Zealand and selected markets can expect to see limited releases of Zespri Red in selected supermarkets and fruit retailers again in 2020 and 2021.
Zespri CEO Dan Mathieson said in the release that the decision is “a significant milestone” and is the next step in Zespri’s portfolio of premium branded kiwifruit.
“After incredible feedback from our passionate consumers, we’re really excited to announce we will be making our new Zespri Red variety available to consumers, with production set to increase in New Zealand over the next couple of years so that we can reach commercial volumes,” Mathieson said in the release. “Adding a red kiwifruit variety to our range of premium kiwifruit provides Zespri with an opportunity to further compete for market share in areas where kiwifruit is currently under-represented and ultimately grow our industry’s share of the global fruit bowl.”
Zespri Red is first expected to be launched in Asia, given the shorter marine transit times, according to the release. Trials will continue in other Zespri production regions in the Northern Hemisphere to determine the commercial potential of the cultivar in different environments, the company said.
“We know there’s a strong demand for a red kiwifruit and we’d love to get this fruit to our consumers sooner, but the fact that kiwifruit depends on nature’s cycles means it’ll take at least 2 years for the vines here in New Zealand to produce enough fruit to meet initial demand,” Mr Mathieson says.
Zespri Red is the latest kiwifruit to come through Zespri’s world-leading new varieties breeding program, according to the release. That program is operated in partnership with Plant & Food Research.
“This fruit has a deliciously sweet berry-tinged flavor and vibrant red flesh and we’re thrilled to see such strong demand from our initial limited sales release,” Mathieson said in the release. “That we can make this variety available is a real credit to the growers who have been involved in our trials, our new varieties breeding program run in partnership with Plant & Food Research, and the commitment to innovation within Zespri and the wider kiwifruit industry.”
The release describe Zespri Red as a slightly smaller and softer-handling kiwifruit than Green and SunGold. Zespri Red’s distinctive red flesh, according to the release, stems from anthocyanin, which Zespri said is a naturally occurring pigment within the fruit that is linked to cardiovascular and cognitive health.
Zespri’s board of directors approved the release of at least 370 acres of Zespri Red license in 2020, based on the company’s assessment of budwood availability.