U.S. an "untapped market" for Aussie fruit...except citrus

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Pinnacle Fresh has seen strong demand for Tasmanian and New Zealand cherries in the U.S. market, where it is also set to import its first litchis this Thursday. 

Pinnacle Fresh USA account manager Daniel Newport told Fresh Fruit Portal while the U.S. market may not have the same buzz around cherry imports in the early months like in Asia for Chinese New Year, there was still a lot to be gained.

"I think it’s an untapped market apart from citrus. I don’t think enough Aussie fruits come here," said Newport, who works out of Kingsburg in Fresno, California.

"Obviously cherries hadn’t been coming here for a number of years due to currency mainly, and the interest in Asia was so strong that people didn’t think there was a need for the U.S. market, but there’s over 300 million people here.

"It's an untapped market we really need to capitalize on, and we’ve shown that last year and this year especially with a number of people wanting to move cherries from New Zealand and Australia out here and I think we’ll grow that each year."

He says the campaign runs from the start of the year until around mid-February, and has been buoyed by the reputation for the country's citrus in the USA.

"People have known Aussie citrus for a long time to be much better flavor than Chilean and South African, so most people who know citrus – and I’m talking retail buyers and people in the wholesale markets – they’re well aware Australian citrus tastes much better.

"It is probably almost twice as expensive so it’s not for everybody but people who want good-tasting citrus will definitely look to Australian citrus and I found that last year.

"And because people are so aware that that’s the case with citrus, it’s been easy to convince them that it’s the same for summerfruits as well."

Newport said Americans had developed a taste for Australian and New Zealand cherries, even though they can be double the price of the Chilean competition and sell at even three times the price of the South American nation's seafreight fruit.

"The flavor profile is just chalk and cheese, so the retailers that want to have a good eating experience for their customers are definitely buying it.

"The competition with Chile is difficult, the competition with South Africa is difficult because of the price point, but if you market as a totally different eating experience, there are enough people who want that."

He clarifies the group only imports cherries from Tasmania and not the rest of Australia, as U.S. authorities would require that fruit to be treated with methyl bromide.

Overall, the season started with some challenges of cold weather persisting during the pollination period, which reduced volume. That was then followed by rain events in December that was "countered through some Smart investment from our supplier partners", according to Newport.

"They have made significant advances with technology to help combat such issues with 100% non-permeable rain covers installed to preserve and enhance quality," he says.

"Our retail partners here in the USA are therefore enjoying the opportunity to supply the very best in which Tasmania has to offer," he said in a release.

Another Pinnacle Fresh USA account manager, Tad Brusseau, said the season had also been challenging for New Zealand growers.

"Cromwell also experienced similar delays in pollination due to cold weather but the season kicked in with a bang with some exceptional quality coming through the system," he said in the release. 

"Our partners in NZ did experience some recent rain also but it has had little to no effect on quality."

Newport also told Fresh Fruit Portal the company would be bringing in its first Australian litchi shipment this week.

"It’ll arrive here in LA on Thursday, so that’ll be another new program for us because the protocol only opened up a bit more than a year ago," he said.

"The first shipment was done by somebody else in December, and that would be the one and only shipment that’s gone in to the U.S. so far.

"We’re doing our first one this Thursday and we’re hoping to back that up with four or five more over the next couple of weeks, so hopefully that’s another summer fruit that goes well here."


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