Zespri board decides to commercialize red kiwifruit
The board of New Zealand-based kiwifruit marketer Zespri on Wednesday made the hotly-awaited decision to commercialize a red variety for the country's growers.
Zespri CEO Dan Mathieson says the decision is a significant milestone and represents the next step in Zespri’s mission of providing the world’s leading 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 says.
“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 the latest kiwifruit to come through Zespri’s world-leading new varieties breeding program, run in partnership with Plant & Food Research. It has been through an extensive trial process to show the fruit not only tastes delicious, but has the ability to perform to Zespri’s high expectations, from the orchard right through the supply chain and into fruit bowls around the world.
“This fruit has a deliciously sweet berry-tinged flavour and vibrant red flesh and we’re thrilled to see such strong demand from our initial limited sales release,” says Mathieson.
“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 programme run in partnership with Plant & Food Research, and the commitment to innovation within Zespri and the wider kiwifruit industry.
“This commercialisation also reflects our commitment to always do better - whether that be by offering better products or making greater contributions to our local communities.”
A slightly smaller and softer-handling kiwifruit than Green and SunGold, Zespri Red’s distinctive red flesh stems from Anthocyanin - a unique and naturally occurring pigment within the fruit that is linked to cardiovascular and cognitive health.
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, as production increases towards commercial volumes in the coming years.
The red variety is initially planned to be launched in Asia given the shorter marine transit times, while trials will continue in other Zespri production regions in the Northern Hemisphere to determine the commercial potential of the cultivar in different environments.
“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.
As part of the commercialisation decision, Zespri’s Board of Directors have approved the release of at least 150 hectares of Red licence in 2020, based on our current assessment of budwood availability.
As is the case with any new variety, growers and investors will need to consider the potential risks of this variety when participating in the commercialisation of Zespri Red.
Further details on the licensing process and performance characteristics for Zespri Red will be made available to Zespri growers in March 2020 when a New Varieties Information Guide and other licensing documentation will be published by Zespri.
Mr Mathieson confirmed that the addition of Zespri Red would assist Zespri in helping reach its ambition of reaching NZ$4.5 billion in global sales by 2025.
“Zespri is committed to providing the world’s leading portfolio of premium kiwifruit and we’re looking forward to even more consumers being able to try Zespri Red in the years ahead as we increase production to commercial levels,” says Mathieson.