Italian company Jingold is starting the first trial volumes of its Oriental Red kiwifruit variety this year across a range of global markets, while plant material is still in quarantine for future release in Chile and Argentina.
Speaking with PBUK during the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit in New Orleans last week, Jingold general manager Alessandro Fornari said the Oriental Red introduction was part of a segmentation strategy to reach different consumers.
“To do this our company for many years has been working with primary institutes of research in order to develop new varieties and new flavours, and to bring these varieties into production in both hemispheres – in Italy and Chile mainly, but nowadays also we are developing in Argentina,” Fornari said.
“Oriental Red is gold with a red core…it mixes the typical flavour of a gold kiwifruit together with the flavour of red-fleshed fruits like cherries or berries, and mixed together it’s something new.”
Jingold has worldwide rights for the variety – developed by the Wuhan Institute of Botany and also known as Donghong – outside China.
“It’s in different areas in Italy – as it is a new variety we are trying it in different ‘terroir’ as they say in French to see if there is any influence that we don’t know on the development on the flavour and colour of the flesh,” the executive said.
“The first fruit we have are coming from an orchard planted in Piedmont, but we also have plantations near Cesena, Veneto, and in southern Italy near Naples. It’s the same spectrum as green or gold kiwifruit.”
To raise awareness of the new variety and Jingold’s programmes, with volumes set to increase despite an overall decline in Italy this year, the company was presenting recently at both PMA Fresh Summit in New Orleans and Fruit Attraction in Madrid.
“Our main markets are Europe, Asia, and we hope America can be the third market for us so we’ll do some specific trials to customers to get some feedback on the variety, on the perception of the fruit,” he said.
“We are not lucky with the timing of this exhibition because actually we are harvesting now, so it was impossible to us [Italian kiwifruit] because of the requirements the US authority has for bringing food into America.”
South American development
Fornari said grower partners in South America were already producing the gold variety Jintao, but it would take time before Chilean and Argentine producers would be able to plant Oriental Red.
“Because actually due to the spread of Psa worldwide some countries like Argentina and Chile have a two-year quarantine period for bringing plant material into the country,” he said.
“We are now in the first year, so we need another year of quarantine, and then we will be able to produce the plants and make the orchards in both countries.”
Unlike Chile, he emphasised Argentina was actually free of the virulent vine disease Psa, and this and other factors meant the strategy was a bit different east of the Andes.
“Actually in Argentina the development plan we have for Jintao is quite challenging because we are doing organic production,” he said, adding most of the production was in Mar del Plata on the Atlantic coast.
“We decided to do that there because we feel there are fewer disease pressures in Argentina than in other countries because kiwifruit is not being so widely cultivated.
“It was a good chance for us to have a good production with big quantities of gold, organic kiwifruit which is also something new because there is no gold organic kiwifruit.”
New scope for Italian production
He said this strategy in Argentina followed on from moves in Italy to encourage organic gold kiwifruit production.
“We are used to trading green organic kiwifruit but not gold, and we do also have the first organic gold kiwifruit from Italy this year,” he said.
“We are continuously trying to suggest growers who are willing to do it to move to organic production, because we think the market is going in that direction.
“Three years ago some growers converted their conventional production to organic, and this year we will have the first volumes.”
Another marketing initiative is the Jingold Bliss, with purple labelling to distinguish a cultivar that is similar to Hayward but in Fornari’s view, quite different.
“Bliss is coming from the Boerica fruit – it’s another Italian variety and it’s not new. It’s widely grown in Italy but the fruit is not usually traded as a specific variety because it’s quite similar to Hayward,” he said.
“But in our view it’s a better variety and we use it to do our premium green kiwifruit which is mainly for some specific customers in Europe but most is going to Asia, China especially, where we have customers who are willing to have really premium green kiwifruit because the shape is better looking.
“This is something really appreciated by the Asian customers. It’s a bit more like the shape of the Jintao.”
He said Jingold would have larger volumes of kiwifruit this year, giving the company a chance to gain more market share in the US.
“As usual when there is a challenging situation you also have some opportunities, because in fact even if the Italian overproduction is decreasing, our availability of green is increasing because of the agreement we’ve got with our supplier base.
“So we’ve got more volumes of green than last year, and we’ve also got more volumes of gold because more orchards are coming into production this year.”
When asked about competition with leading New Zealand-based kiwifruit marketer Zespri, Fornari said there were “two sides of the coin”.
“On one side, it’s hard competition because they are very strong – they are a country and not just a company, whereas we are just a company,” he said.
“And they are very strong in marketing, especially when they sell from the Southern Hemisphere. It is hard from our perspective to compete with the Chilean production.
“But on the other side of the coin, they are really good in increasing the consumption and promoting kiwifruit as a category, which of course is also providing us with a window to get in and increasing the awareness of green and gold kiwifruit.
“So in the end also as a follower we benefit from their work. I think the whole industry benefits from the investment of Zespri of course.”