Bonifructi, one of Slovakia's biggest fresh fruit and vegetable trading organisations, has become the latest supplier to join KIKU-Pool Europe, the association of companies which market KIKU-branded apples.
"In the last few years we have planted approximately 22ha of KIKU, but until now the apples were sold in domestic and foreign markets as Fuji," explains Josef Vozar, who owns Bonifructi together with Belgian company Wouters. "But KIKU has been a success story in the last few years. KIKU Ltd and its global partners have built a strong brand and developed good markets."
"With KIKU we believe to have a big chance to differentiate ourselves from other competitors and to launch a superior product in terms of appearance and taste in Slovakia and the Czech Republic," added Mr Vozar. "Additionally, the collaboration with global partners is very appealing; the opportunities and synergies are enormous because of the existing global network and experience of marketing, promotion and comunication, especially towards end consumer.
According to Jürgen Braun, general manager of South Tyrol, Italy-based KIKU Ltd, Bonifructi's forecast 1,000 tonnes of apples takes KIKU-Pool Europe's total output to around 10,000 tonnes.
"But numbers are not that important," Mr Braun stresses. "The quality must be super, and after a very good sales season last time around we will again put much effort into supporting our customers with excellent service and extraordinary promotional activites."
The company is planning tastings at point of sale, competitions and other events, all of them designed to achieve personal contact with the end consumer. "Obviously, today, the internet is irreplaceable, and we are inviting the consumers to visit our websites," says Mr Braun.
Elsewhere, KIKU has continued to sponsor a number of outdoor sporting events in order to gain media exposure for its brand. Ghanese skier Kwame, who is due to partecipate at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver next year, continues to wear the KIKU brand, while the company is also partnering and sponsoring the International Mountain Summit, a highlight in the international mountaineering calendar that sees 16 of the most famous climbers take part in various activities for one week in South Tyrol.
"We are constantly monitor the situation and selecting precisely those activities that we and all of our partners can use globally, which increases the positivity around the brand in order to strengthen it," explains Mr Braun.
KIKU has made good progress in the last years in building up the KIKU-Pool Europe, which now counts 10 marketers in 8 countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, Greece and Italy) among its members.
Outside Europe, support for the registered trademark is also growing. Washington State based CMI marketed its first KIKU apples this year, while KIKU New Zealand has placed the fruit for the first time in USA and once again in Asia.
"Asia is getting more and more important," says Mr Braun, "and we will be present at Asia Fruitlogistica. "Next year, says Mr Braun, the first South African-grown KIKUs are due to arrive in Europe. "We are coming closer and closer to a big objective: with plantations in both hemispheres we can satisfy the demand for fresh KIKU the whole year. Another objective is to develop new markets with the increasing production and to strengthen the brand KIKU around the world."