Zespri SunGold growing fast in U.S. with sales expected to hit $1B around 2030
In North America for the fourth consecutive year, Zespri’s SunGold kiwifruit has been “the fastest growing fruit in the fruit basket,” according to Dan Mathieson CEO of Zespri, which is based in Mount Maunganuri, New Zealand.
Mathieson met with Fresh Fruit Portal in Orlando at the Global Produce & Floral Summit on Oct. 28 to discuss North American sales of Zespri kiwi.
“All our products have actually been growing, including green organics, but the real super star has been SunGold,” he said.
That growth is “something we’re really proud of. What’s even more exciting is that actually we’re still very much in our infancy. Household penetration is less than 25 percent. That shows you the size of the growth opportunity ahead of us.”
Generally, when North Americans thought of kiwifruit, green came to mind. “Gold is very, very new” in the market, Mathieson notes. But around the world, over the last decade is gold has overtaken green in most of Zespri’s major markets.
But, over the last couple of years in the U.S., there is the same buying trend. This is driven by SunGold’s sweeter flavor. He said green kiwi’s zingy flavor of “is not for everyone and the gold has this beautiful sweet flavor that seems to meet the North American palate a little bit better.”
Another reason for increased gold kiwifruit sales is “it has a wider, ready-to-eat window, so you can pick it up in the supermarket and take it home and eat it straight away.” Green kiwifruit need to ripen at home for a day or two to reach the best ripeness.
Mathieson added that another factor driving gold kiwifruit consumption over the last couple of years is high vitamin C content. Covid heightened consumer interest in building immunity. “Self-care has become more and more important and people want to eat good foods with high nutrients. With SunGold you can get all of your vitamin C in just one fruit.”
Zespri’s North American sales have been growing at about 15% and “we’re expecting to see that continue to grow well into the future. Today we’re about $170 million in revenue. And we expect just past 2030 we expect to be at a billion.”
Zespri’s kiwifruit supplies from New Zealand begin about May – or, hopefully, a little earlier – and run until about November. Then, Zespri transitions to its European supplies, which mainly come out of Italy. SunGold is in production in Italy, and Mathieson indicates, “This year we expect to have record volumes out of our European business, as well.”
He notes, “Europe has been one of our very strong green markets for many, many years. And what we have seen over the last five years is consumers continuing to buy green but also putting gold into their fruit purchasing decisions as well. And as a result of that we’ve actually seen gold surpass green sales in Europe, as well. We’re expecting similar growth trends across our major European markets, as we’ve seen here in the U.S.
Zespri is excited about its red kiwifruit sales, because of the “beautiful solid red color with a nice berry undertone flavor. It’s quite unique in the fruit basket,” according to the firm’s CEO. “So far, because of shorter shelf life it’s mostly in the Asian markets out of New Zealand.”
Zespri is now conducting red kiwifruit production trials in Italy. Thus, bigger red volumes are expected for Europe in coming years. If that’s successful, red kiwifruit sales will then also expand to North America.
Zespri indicated in an October 10 press release that Zespri’s season-to-date growth rate over a year ago was more than 29%.
Zespri has helped the kiwifruit category grow to be the number one fastest-growing fruit within the top 20 fruits over the last four years. Overall, Zespri has accounting for 48% of total category sales since the start of the season this year, which is up from 43% last season.
SunGold is Zespri brand’s main growth driver with volume sales up 15%.