Ahead of Zespri UK exhibiting at the forthcoming London Produce Show and Conference (June 7-9), PBUK talks with Jayne Chamberlain, UK & Ireland market manager, about how the yellow-fleshed SunGold kiwifruit variety is positioned as a healthy snack alternative for health conscious UK consumers searching for ready-to-eat products.
Following a brief gap in supply between January and April, the variety is now again available in retailers around the country, promoted as a convenient snack packed with a high concentration of vitamins and minerals.
After around a decade in development, the yellow-fleshed SunGold variety emerged from an ongoing plant-breeding programme and is cementing its place as a Ready to Eat (RTE) product in Britain’s supermarkets.
“In 2016 Zespri SunGold sales doubled in the UK compared to 2015 – with seasonal programmes with most key retailers implemented. Sales growth is expected to remain strong over the next five years,” Chamberlain says.
“To establish a new product such as SunGold and to support sales in store with retailers we need to build awareness with consumer/shoppers.
“In general consumers are looking for increased convenience and this is no different when it comes to fruit. Products which are ready-to-eat are showing strong growth. Zespri kiwifruit is strongly aligned to deliver on this trend with both Zespri Green and SunGold providing a healthy snack that can be eaten as soon as the consumer wants.”
Part of Zespri UK’s integrated marketing campaign cites Sungold as a winner during last year’s Quality Foods Awards 2016 when the yellow kiwifruit brand scooped best unprepared fruit.
“Because it is particularly juicy, refreshing and naturally sweet with a golden yellow flesh and uniquely smooth skin, SunGold became an instant hit with growers and consumers alike. As well as a superb flavour and RTE texture, its nutritional properties are excellent with high concentration of vitamins and minerals.
“For instance, at the same weight, Zespri SunGold has three times the vitamin C of an orange. Winning the best unprepared fruit category at the UK Quality Food Awards is a great independent endorsement.
“We will showcase Zespri SunGold and also Zespri Green at the London Produce Show where we hope to continue to increase Zespri’s profile in the UK market and also be available to discuss potential new collaborations with other attendees and exhibitors,” adds Chamberlain.
To supply Zespri kiwifruit twelve months of the year Zespri SunGold and Zespri Green is is grown globally, with the biggest supply regions currently being New Zealand and Italy, says Chamberlain.
“SunGold volumes have been steadily increasing as most vines were grafted in 2012 and are now reaching full production. SunGold volumes have increased steadily from 11 million trays in 2014, to 27 million in 2015 and we have had another strong rise in 2016.
“Volumes are predicted to reach around 90 million trays over the next five years.
“Due to high global demand Zespri SunGold currently has a gap in supply from approximately Jan to April and to help fill this gap Zespri allocated an additional 1,800 hectares of European SunGold licence over the next three years, doubling production of this proprietary kiwifruit variety in Europe.”
Extra SunGold licenses have also been released in New Zealand to help meet global demand, Chamberlain adds.
“Whenever dealing with a natural product weather conditions and desired size profiles can be challenging. However, Zespri has extensive science programmes and on-orchard extension support to facilitate the sharing of best practice and new ideas to assist in growing the best quality kiwifruit possible.
“Zespri is owned by 2,500 growers in New Zealand and they are passionate that to be a premium product our kiwifruit needs to meet taste and quality expectations of the consumer.”
Meanwhile, the New Zealand kiwifruit marketer has begun its second season of growing trials in China’s Shaanxi Province, with the objective of being able to supply the local market from home-grown fruit.
Currently, Zespri imports its kiwifruit from the production areas of New Zealand and Italy.