Zespri will allocate an additional 1,800ha of European SunGold licence over the next three years, doubling production of the proprietary kiwifruit variety in Europe.
According to the company, the first 1,200ha will be in Italy, with the remaining 600ha still to be allocated.
Zespri chief operating officer Simon Limmer explains that the significant investment to extend Zespri’s supply base in Europe is driven by growing year-round demand for Zespri Kiwifruit.
“Twelve-month supply is a key part of Zespri’s strategy and this investment aligns our offshore production with the strong increases in New Zealand SunGold volumes, set to double to around 320,000 tonnes over the next five years,” he says.
Zespri president global sales & marketing Daniel Mathieson outlines that Zespri invested around NZ$160m (€100m) last year in targeted marketing at trade and consumer levels, which benefits the entire kiwifruit category.
“Kiwifruit makes up just 0.22 per cent of globally traded fruit: our goal is to grow kiwifruit consumption around the world," he says. "Large-scale investments like this help us achieve that goal and meet the very strong consumer demand for this great-tasting, quality fruit, which has brought real excitement to the global kiwifruit category.
“We’re pleased to see the growth in kiwifruit volumes around the world, which underscores just how important it is for all kiwifruit producers to supply good quality, tasty fruit to support this category growth,” Mathieson adds.
This significant investment will be initially delivered through a longstanding partnership with four Italian suppliers – Apofruit, Alegra–Intesa, Salvi Unacoa and Spreafico – the four suppliers originally contracted with Zespri in 2000 to produce the previous gold variety Hort16A, which ignited the gold category worldwide.
SunGold and the earlier gold variety Hort16A were developed by Zespri and Plant & Food Research as part of the annual NZ$50m (€33m) investment by New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry and government in innovation, which includes breeding new varieties to attract new consumers to eat kiwifruit regularly.
Current production of Zespri SunGold in Italy is 17,500 tonnes a year from 800 producing SunGold hectares. There are another 850 licenced hectares in the ground which will come into full production in the next few years; the combined volume of the existing 1,650ha and the new 1,200ha will see Zespri’s Italian SunGold volume quadruple to around 70,000 tonnes in the next five years. The volume from the additional 600ha would be on top of that.
Limmer explains that, based on current pricing, the SunGold fruit from the first 1,200ha alone will generate over €100m a year in revenue for the Italian economy once the vines are fully producing.
“New Zealand growers are seeing the benefits of a high-performing, high-quality variety, managed through the Zespri supply chain and marketed under Zespri’s premium brand, which celebrates its 20th birthday next month," he says. “Growing Zespri Kiwifruit in Italy for the past 17 years has seen us develop strong partnerships with Italian growers and suppliers, making Italy the logical choice to expand our production base.
The new plantings will be staged, with 1,200ha to be established in Italy over the next two years and a further 600ha planned for Europe in 2019/20.