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Significant growth opportunities for NZ Kiwifruit in US market

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

With US demand for Kiwifruit on the rise, the US market holds significant growth potential for New Zealand Kiwifruit exporters, however an ongoing focus on consumer education and development of value-added products will be required if

New Zealand is to fully capitalise on this opportunity, according to California-

based RaboResearch senior analyst Roland Fumasi.

Presenting to Kiwifruit growers across New Zealand via a recent webinar, Mr Fumasi said that while Kiwifruit was not yet a "big deal" in the US market, demand for the product was undoubtedly shifting in the right direction.

"At a quarter of a kilogram per capita each year, Kiwifruit consumption in the US falls a long way behind some of the more popular fruits like strawberries which are at close to four kilograms per capita each year," he said.

"However, we have seen good growth in Kiwifruit consumption in recent years and it is now one of the more rapidly-growing products in the US fruit and nut space."

Mr Fumasi said there were number of factors driving increased demand, including greater awareness of the health benefits of Kiwifruit and the emergence of the Kiwifruit gold variety.

"The healthfulness of Kiwifruit is off-the-charts and is a major factor in growing demand over recent years, particularly among households with more disposable income. We’ve also seen good growth in sales of gold Kiwifruit, with the sweeter flavour proving a hit with many consumers. Another factor in its popularity is it’s more ready to eat when you buy it and provides a more consistent eating experience," he said.

"Another factor in growing demand is the fact that the product is supplied to the US market 52 weeks of the year, which helps consumers to establish a regular consumption pattern."

Mr Fumasi said New Zealand Kiwifruit exports played a vital role in ensuring year-round supply of Kiwifruit to the US market and that the high quality of New Zealand Kiwifruit had helped establish a price premium for NZ product.

"During the early and late months of the year, the US market is reliant on domestic Kiwifruit production - which comes almost exclusively from California - and imported Kiwifruit from Italy. However, from April through to October the market is dominated by fruit supplied from New Zealand and Chile," he said.

"After losing some ground in 2012 and 2013, we’ve seen sales of New Zealand Kiwifruit into the US trending upward and, during this period, New Zealand product has been able to maintain a clear price premium over Kiwifruit sourced from elsewhere."

Capitalising on the US opportunity

To maintain a price premium and grow market share, Mr Fumasi said the New Zealand Kiwifruit industry would need to continue supplying exceptionally high-quality product while also exploring additional consumer education and value-added opportunities.

"Consistency of eating experience has been a challenge for Kiwifruit over the years, as sometimes consumers biting into a Kiwifruit a little too early can get a very sour eating experience," he said.

"The gold cultivar helps, because it does provide more consistency, however I think more education is required to improve US consumer understanding of when a Kiwifruit is ripe to eat and to highlight all of its great health benefits. I like the idea of point of purchase education because it captures the consumers attention right there when they’re thinking Kiwifruit and gets US customers cutting into a Kiwifruit when it’s ready to eat."

A further factor to consider, according to Mr Fumasi, is what more can be done to increase the convenience of the product.

"While most would consider Kiwifruit to be relatively convenient, it’s not as convenient as some of the fruit it competes against, like blueberries or blackberries, and this is significant given convenience is so important for today’s younger consumers," he said.

"To the younger generation, especially those who always have a mobile device in one hand, it’s a lot easier to throw a couple of blueberries in your mouth than to scoop Kiwifruit with a spoon."

To address this, Mr Fumasi said the industry would be wise to think about what value-added opportunities were available that could add a higher level of convenience.

"For example, I’ve seen some retailers starting to combine pre-sliced or pre-

chunked Kiwifruit together with other fruits such as mixed berries or table grapes and I think there is value in exploring how Kiwifruit can find its way into mixes of products that add a level of convenience," he said.

"Ideas in this space may also lead to cross-promotional opportunities, so, for example, maybe a large Kiwifruit marketer and a large berry marketer join forces to really push the narrative around mixing these fruits and potentially expand consumption of both categories."

Organic potential

Despite lower growth in US organic food sales in recent years, Mr Fumasi said the organic market was a further market which held great growth potential for New Zealand Kiwifruit.

"Whilst surpassing USD 46 billion of sales in 2018, growth in retail value of organic food sales in the US has moderated to six per cent over the past two years, in comparison to 10 per cent between 2010 and 2016," he said.

"However, I still see plenty of potential for increased sales of organic Kiwifruit as the reported volumes of organic Kiwifruit are currently really low and increased supply in the short run will not outstrip demand."

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