Chief executive discusses how kiwifruit marketer is delivering added value despite “significant challenges”

Zespri CEO Dan Mathieson

Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson

Zespri’s ongoing investment in its brand is helping the kiwifruit marketer build demand ahead of supply, according to chief executive Dan Mathieson.

Commenting on the company’s 2021/22 season results earlier this week, Mathieson said the strength of the Zespri brand, aided by strong partnerships across the supply chain, had created added value for its kiwifruit offering, despite a challenging 12 months.

Zespri surpassed NZ$4bn in sales revenue for the first time in 2021/22, while sales volumes increased 11 per cent on the previous year.

“This is a really pleasing result given how significant the challenges we faced in the 2021/22 season were,” Mathieson explained.

“These included the pandemic and ongoing supply chain disruption, shifting weather patterns, tightening regulations, changes to fruit flows, increasing competition in the market, labour shortages, late season fruit quality issues, significant cost increases and international trade challenges.

“Exporters right around the world have been tested, and our industry again rose to the challenge to deliver strong results in the toughest of circumstances.

“We were able to succeed because of the hard work growers, suppliers, our partners and the whole Zespri team put in to ensure that we could adapt and deliver a quality product that more and more consumers want.

“Our investment in building our brand has been supported by our long-term partnerships throughout the supply chain, and by utilising our scale, we’ve avoided the worst of the global shipping crisis through greater use of charter shipping to ensure our fruit can get to market to meet the growing demand. Our teams in market also allowed us to stay closely connected to the challenges and changing market conditions and be agile in response.”

Mathieson said Zespri’s growth wasn’t solely coming from New Zealand orchards, with its offshore operations continuing to perform strongly.

“We saw ZGS (Zespri Global Supply) financial performance reaching new levels, despite some weather-related challenges in Europe, with volumes of around 26.5m trays and a contribution to fruit and services payment of around NZ$410m,” Mathieson said.

“The growth of our offshore production remains critically important, boosting our efforts to serve our consumers year-round, helping to hold our shelf space, make our marketing investment more efficient and to maintain commercial partnerships to allow us to launch our New Zealand sales season.

“As a result, we are able to maximise the benefit from the increased international demand we’re creating, delivering stronger returns to growers in New Zealand and around the world.”

Sustainable future

Mathieson said Zespri was also making solid progress towards it long-term sustainability goals.

“We’ve outlined a range of long-term targets which reflect our commitment to address areas that our consumers and customers have indicated should be a priority for a business like ours,” Mathieson explained.

“Our climate change strategy, for example, sets out how we will work with the industry to help lead the transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient future. We’re also continuing to move towards our goal of having 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2035 and to strengthen our efforts to create an industry where our people are well supported.”

Mathieson said Zespri had maintained its focus on investing heavily in its communities throughout 2021/22 to ensure the benefits of the industry’s growth are shared.

“Whether it’s creating healthy communities or supporting those in need, our focus on being led by our values continues to allow us to create value for growers and our communities and we will maintain our commitment to this moving forward.”