Sweet result for navel industry
Just as one bad apple can spoil the bunch, one bad orange can drive a consumer out of the market for around a month so it is crucial that each fruit is as sweet as the last.
That’s the word from Delytics managing director Mark Loefflen, who is leading New Zealand Citrus Growers’ (NZCGI) key Navel Orange Fruit Maturity Project.
“Consumers are going to have an eating experience that is good, bad or indifferent and that experience determines what they do next,” Loeffen told the around 70 growers and industry associates at September’s NZCGI conference, in Gisborne.
“If consumers enjoy a good eating experience that improves repurchasing, and that is good for everyone.”
Around 82% of navel orange growers across Gisborne and Northland are taking part in the monitoring programme – which uses a BrimA (brix minus acid) measure to monitor maturity – that was adopted by NZCGI at the start of 2016. And despite frustration from one Gisborne grower who had to hold his fruit back until it reached maturity, the system is working.
“Despite what has been a challenging season, our supermarket monitoring shows that 82% of navel oranges this year were
“If consumers like the fruit they buy they will repurchase the same amount the following week. But if you put in immature fruit, it doesn’t matter how much great the product is you put in after that. It is too late . . . the consumers are gone.””
regarded as ‘acceptable’, as compared to the 60% recorded in 2015,” Loeffman told the conference-goers.
“That consumers can enjoy a good eating experience in a really tough season is an excellent result.”
Drought conditions in the summer followed by a winter of record rain had a big impact on the sector – fruit size was smaller than usual and the Northland oranges came off the tree a fortnight later than predicted, while Gisborne oranges were four-and-a-half weeks late. “We had predicted early maturity this year and were on track for that until late-April/early-May when everything went sideways,” he said. “So hats off to those who worked really hard and stuck with the system to get us that 85% acceptability rating.”
There were, however, some growers not working with the programme who put their fruit to market more than three weeks before they were ready.
“That skews the acceptability rating and that’s what can spoil the market for everyone,” Loeffen said. “Once the consumer has that bad eating experience, they are knocked out of the market.”
Getting the maturity on point increases consumer demand across the season, he added.
“If consumers like the fruit they buy they will repurchase the same amount the following week. But if you put in immature fruit, it doesn’t matter how much great the product is you put in after that. It is too late . . . the consumers are gone.”
Overall, Mark Loeffen said growers could be proud of the fruit they had put out in 2017.
“The results show that growers of New Zealand navels have now become suppliers of consistently good fruit and that’s great news for the citrus industry.”