International marketer Zespri has confirmed the scheduled arrival of its first New Zealand kiwifruit of the new season at the start of May.
The first consignment of 5,500 pallets of Zespri New Zealand kiwifruit has now passed through Panama aboard the MV Lady Rosebay, a brand new vessel operated by Fresh Carriers Corporation which is on its maiden voyage to the Port of Zeebrugge in Belgium, and one of the fastest ships ever used by Zespri.
Back in New Zealand, kiwifruit harvesting is in full swing and Zespri said it continued to take every precaution to ensure the fruit is packed under ideal conditions.
"Regular quality checks reduce any possibility of the quality of the fruit being harmed in any way," said a spokesperson for the group. "Every case of Zespri kiwifruit can be traced back accurately to the orchard where the fruit was picked."
Weather conditions have reportedly been quite different compared with last season, with rainfall and soil moisture levels considerably lower than in 2009 in most regions.
Green kiwifruit orchards apparently experienced good flowering conditions and pollination followed by a period of good development in terms of sizing, while a cold October meant the company's Gold orchards are expected to offer a slightly smaller size profile.
However, growers insist that slightly lower water and moisture levels result in more dry matter, which can give the kiwifruit an "excellent taste".
New Zealand's Green kiwifruit volumes in 2010 are forecast to be similar to last year, but with a larger average size, while Zespri Gold volumes will be down compared with the previous season.
In Europe, Zespri is preparing to roll out a range of marketing and communication campaigns across the continent in order to boost kiwifruit sales and to make a strong start to the season.
Television campaigns are planned in Spain, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands, where Zespri is also planning to join with the 'Health Angels', a Dutch TV show about healthy living – the health benefits of kiwifruit are set to be featured in every episode.
In Belgium, Holland, Italy and Spain, nationwide promotions will target mainly the countries' specialised fruit stores, promotions which will be heavily supported with point-of-sale material and consumer promotions offering attractive prizes.
In Belgium, Zespri is one of the main sponsors of 'Life Eat', an umbrella concept around healthy lifestyles that will be launched end of this month.
Life Eat aims to promote healthy food and regular exercise, and will spread this message through workshops in schools and offices.
The initiative will also involve a summer tour to the Belgian coast in which Zespri will be one of the main partners.
This year's promotional programme in Germany will be based mainly online. In collaboration with a select group of German retailers, Zespri has developed a number of online competitions with attractive prizes to boost the profile of Zespri products and brand awareness across the country.
Additional promotional support will be offered through a range of school activities run in different European countries alongside a programme for health professionals, both focusing on the health and nutritional benefits of kiwifruit.
"Throughout the season, Zespri maintains a strong focus on customer demands, especially in regards to quality, service and supply," said the spokesperson. "Our customers are important partners for us and these partnerships are vital to further build our business."