Leading kiwifruit marketer’s new project ZAG will foster innovation and partnerships to achieve better sustainability and higher consumption

Zespri, the world’s largest kiwifruit marketer, has established a US$2m fund to support industry innovation and partnerships.

The initiative, which is known as ZAG, is pat of the company’s work to help people, communities and the environment around the world, it said.

As such, it aims to attract innovative problem solvers from around the world who can help address some of the key challenges the industry faces as it meets growing demand for kiwifruit.

Those challenges could be in sustainable agriculture, technology, automation, packaging, supply chain, logistics and industry education.

“We have a very clear focus on creating sustainable, long-term value for our growers,” said

Jiunn Shih, chief marketing, innovation and sustainability officer at Zespri. “ZAG will enable us to partner with other innovators to explore ways to do this, whilst also helping restore nature and moving us to a place where healthy eating is a well-established habit.”

ZAG will support projects focused on four areas: improving product quality and orchard productivity; promoting consumer wellbeing; protecting and enhancing nature; and benefiting growers and local communities.

“Our ambitions are greater than our capabilities,” Shih continued, “and with this in mind, we are inviting others to partner with us to help solve challenges that impact our fruit and the wellbeing of people, communities and the environment.”

Global green goals

Zespri works with about 4,000 growers around the world to deliver its fruit to more than 50 countries. For that reason, improved sustainability through collaboration will be a central theme for the new project.

“While we’re making steady progress, such as a five per cent reduction in our shipping emissions through improved charter vessel utilisation, we know it’s new partners and solutions that will really unlock change,” Shih added.

“We’re inspired by our growers and supply chain partners who are prototyping actions as part of our carbon-neutral trial.

“And we’re pushing forward a partnership approach on shipping by asking other businesses and governments to come with us, so we can stimulate the demand that’s needed to accelerate the deployment of greener solutions.”

Zespri said it had already taken several major steps to address its environmental impact. These include a net-zero roadmap to 2050, a switch to recyclable, reusable or compostable materials for 88 per cent of its packaging, and the release last year of a plan to help growers adapt to climate change.

In the meantime, it has continued to roll out global nutrition programmes – including 35 healthy lifestyle projects in over 12 countries – to boost consumption of fresh kiwifruit around the world.

These apparently created 5bn “healthy eating occasions” during the 2022/23 season, a number Zespri wants to increase to 6bn by 2025.

“We’re really excited about the potential ZAG has to increase our efforts in this space,” Shih concluded. “We look forward to working with agri- and food-tech innovators as well as other solution providers, to help Zespri and the kiwifruit industry achieve an even brighter future.”