Chilean kiwifruit boost Sun Pacific ripe & ready deal
California-based Sun Pacific introduced its retail ready kiwifruit program in 2011 but this year marked the first appearance of Chilean supply under the deal. President Bob DiPiazza tells www.freshfruitportal.com about raising the fruit's profile, as well as a tough Mexican grape season and the company's forays into clementine 'Cuties' juices.
Whether it be too much rock hard kiwifruit on supermarket shelves or that fuzzy sensation on its surface, known as haptodysphoria, the category is yet to meet its potential.
Suppliers can't do much about the latter unless they want to sell the fruit pre-cut, but the implementation of ready and ripe programs is on the rise to make the product more consumer-friendly. Sun Pacific got on board with the innovation las year with its Californian kiwifruit supply and now has a policy of year-round sales.
"Our newest development is the retail ripe kiwifruit and we've got quite a lot of fruit out of Chile this year, and I believe it’s a good story to be telling with the benefits this fruit has and its nutritional value," says DiPiazza.
The kiwifruit has an uncommonly broad range of nutrients including vitamin C, vitamin E, folic acid, pantothenate, calcium and potassium, as well as magnesium which is important for cardiovascular health.
Despite these positive characteristics, it will still take time for the industry to convince consumers to incorporate more kiwifruit into their diets.
"We’ve got a year round deal and we want to show consumers that it’s easy to consume a kiwifruit by just cutting it in half and scooping out the flesh.
"We've been really pleased with the quality. We set stringent specifications in terms of soluble solids, dry matter, brix and the sizing.
"We believe our program is helping increases in consumption and most importantly our customers believe that too."
He says as its a conditioned product it adds value and a premium price.
In other categories, DiPiazza says the 2012 grape season has been an 'interesting' one.
"Mexico experienced some extreme heat later in the deal that affected quality, and when those grapes were displayed on shelves it slowed down movement.
"We had that to contend with and a really good Californian season with good quality and sizing.
My funny clementine
DiPiazza says the increased popularity of easy peelers such as clementines and mandarins has led to some "cannibalization" of the citrus category, as there is only so much citrus that consumers will choose.
"It has pushed us to work harder with our navels, working with customers on merchandising techniques or getting consumer value.
While still selling oranges, Sun Pacific and its partner Paramount Citrus have made strides in the seedless clementine market with the brand Cuties.
Last year Cuties juices were introduced, which have had good distribution in the U.S. so far with DiPiazza forecasting a growth trend.
"The refrigerated juice market is really dominated by citrus drinks, so our thought is that with a citrus base, cuties juices will appeal to a larger market."