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Delivering On Demand for Zespri Fruit

This article is published in the April 2022 Kiwiflier.

There is a feeling of optimism and excitement about the future of Zespri’s Northern Hemisphere supply business known as Zespri Global Supply (ZGS). Across every growing region, ZGS staff and partners are excited about the opportunities as the hard work in getting orchards established begins to bear fruit (pun intended).

Executive Officer for Northern Hemisphere Supply, Nick Kirton has been in the role since March 2021. Prior to this Nick worked for Zespri in New Zealand and China, and in Japan as Head of Asia for ZGS. He is now located in Bologna, Italy where he leads the wider ZGS team. Nick’s focus is on building a global supply operation which supports New Zealand growers, including putting in place people, systems, and partnerships to support Zespri’s 12-month supply strategy.

“We are focussed on supporting New Zealand growers and we know we need to provide Zespri quality fruit to our loyal consumers when New Zealand fruit is not available, to build the Zespri brand and grow our market share,” Nick explains.

Nick knows ZGS is yet reach its full potential and there is still plenty of work to do but recent record-breaking performances across the ZGS growing locations are a good sign.

“We have just completed the 2021 SunGold Kiwifruit sales season and have grown our supply volumes in every region. In Europe, the growers recovered well from early season frosts to exceed production estimates and achieve production of over 16 million trays. Most of our production is from recent plantings which are yet to reach full production. Based on current yields we expect that once our current 5,000ha of approved planting is in full production, we will be producing over 30 million trays.”

However, Nick notes that higher yields will be critical to fulfilling Zespri’s supply targets.

“We have recently made great progress with some of the growing challenges like Kiwifruit Vine Decline (KVDS) and Psa and combined with a more careful selection process for new plantings we are confident we can lift yields across all regions. That will see us reach between 40-50 million trays from the approved 5,000ha.”

Executive Officer for Europe and North America, Giorgio Comino and his team have recently been through a process of understanding future demand for SunGold and Green Kiwifruit. He says that demand is impressive, but he needs SunGold Kiwifruit to be available for all 12-months of the year and right now, he doesn’t have enough fruit in the New Zealand off-season.

“Last season, we had strong demand for SunGold Kiwifruit from April, when the first New Zealand fruit arrived, right through until February, but unfortunately, we ran out of ZGS supply and were unable to meet that demand. Our consumers switched to alternatives which is a lost opportunity for us. With the new season SunGold Kiwifruit arriving back in Europe, we now need to get those consumers back to eating Zespri Kiwifruit. There is much more potential for growth of SunGold and Green Kiwifruit in Europe but ZGS fruit volumes need to grow to meet the demand for a 12-month supply.”

In recent discussions with New Zealand growers and on the dedicated ZGS website, Zespri has been providing information on the demand for SunGold Kiwifruit production in the New Zealand off-season. Under the current approval of 5,000ha, ZGS will only provide 14 percent of Zespri's global fruit production and supply less than 30 percent of the northern hemisphere target demand for SunGold Kiwifruit which is why Zespri is consulting with growers on expanding the approval for producing SunGold Kiwifruit outside of New Zealand. If our growth ambitions are achieved, then it could be possible for ZGS to supply up to 93 percent of SunGold Kiwifruit demand in the northern hemisphere season by 2030. The current approval of 20 million trays of Hayward procurement is sufficient to supply close to all of the target demand for Hayward.

Giorgio says “Zespri has a fantastic product with Zespri Green and SunGold Kiwifruit, achieving strong brand value by providing consumers with a consistently high-quality product. But to maximise Zespri’s potential – both in volume and value – we need to supply that product yearround, fulfilling the needs of our consumers to buy Zespri Kiwifruit any day of the year.”

With confidence in both market demand and ZGS supply strategies, Nick and Giorgio appreciate the role New Zealand growers have in making the decision on whether to expand ZGS production. Both are ready to answer any questions growers in New Zealand may have or provide more information that is needed.

Nick says “We know New Zealand growers need to understand the benefits and risk mitigations to consider their support for the strategy. I encourage growers to review the information on the website and to let us know if you have any questions or concerns – your feedback is critical to getting this right.”

Zespri will continue to consult with growers over the next few weeks before a final decision on proceeding with a producer vote is made in late May. The focus would then turn to discussing the proposal with New Zealand growers before a potential producer vote is held alongside the AGM in August.