Ze­spri drives for big­ger share of the global fruit bas­ket

In­creas­ing the vol­umes of Ze­spri SunGold Or­ganic ki­wifruit will help the com­pany meet its tar­get of NZ$4.5bn in in­ter­na­tional sales by 2025, says new chief ex­ec­u­tive Dan Mathieson.

The Orchardist - - News - By Elaine Fisher

“Be­cause of its high yields, Ze­spri SunGold is fi­nan­cially at­trac­tive to or­chardists who want to grow the fruit or­gan­i­cally, and we see a great op­por­tu­nity to in­crease the Ze­spri Or­ganic cat­e­gory for both green and gold fruit,” said Mathieson.

In Oc­to­ber the Ze­spri board ap­proved the ad­di­tional re­lease of 50 hectares a year of li­cence for Or­ganic SunGold, specif­i­cally for green­field plant­ings. It in­tends to re­lease a to­tal of 250 hectares over the next five years, sub­ject to an­nual re­view.

The board has also an­nounced the al­lo­ca­tion of 700 hectares of SunGold li­cence in 2018, via a Closed Ten­der Bid.

Ze­spri chair­man Peter McBride said Ze­spri also in­tends to ex­tend the re­lease of SunGold li­cence out to 2022, mean­ing a to­tal of 3,500 hectares to be re­leased over the next five years.

“It is clear from per­for­mance in the mar­kets in re­cent sea­sons and from our as­sess­ment of fu­ture de­mand that we need to ac­cel­er­ate sup­ply growth of SunGold. The gap to fill be­tween the strong de­mand out­look and our cur­rent tra­jec­tory of sup­ply growth presents a sig­nif­i­cant strate­gic op­por­tu­nity.

“De­mand fore­casts sup­port the re­lease of 700 hectares per year. How­ever, this is sub­ject to an an­nual re­view that would con­sider any po­ten­tial new risks to our cur­rent de­mand out­look.”

This, says Mathieson, makes the goal of dou­bling re­turns very achiev­able. “Ki­wifruit makes up just 0.22% of the global fruit bas­ket so there is ob­vi­ously a huge op­por­tu­nity for growth across all Ze­spri cat­e­gories.”

An in­creas­ing con­sumer pref­er­ence for safe nu­tri­tious fresh food will help fuel that growth in ex­ist­ing mar­kets as well as in emerg­ing mar­kets in­clud­ing North Amer­ica, South East Asia and In­dia.

Key, said Mathieson, is the Ze­spri brand name which is un­der­pinned by; “an un­re­lent­ing focus on qual­ity. Our strong sup­plier and cus­tomer part­ner­ships pro­vide us with an out­stand­ing op­por­tu­nity to rapidly in­crease de­mand, in­crease sup­ply and in­no­vate to sus­tain and grow re­turns to grow­ers and share­hold­ers.”

Ze­spri is a truly global brand and among the most recog­nised in the in­ter­na­tional fruit busi­ness. Its suc­cess is due to the New Zealand in­dus­try’s com­mit­ment to qual­ity and high stan­dards, a for­mula which is now ap­plied to fruit grown un­der li­cence to Ze­spri in France, Italy, Korea and Ja­pan, with trial plant­ings in China and North Amer­ica too.

Grow­ing off-shore en­sures 12 month’s sup­ply of Ze­spri ki­wifruit with North­ern Hemi­sphere fruit en­ter­ing the mar­ket to fill the gap left when the New Zealand crop is sold.

“Sup­ply­ing pre­mium qual­ity fruit all-year round helps us grow ki­wifruit con­sump­tion around the world and meet the needs of our con­sumers who want Ze­spri-qual­ity ki­wifruit 12 months of the year. We want to en­sure Ze­spri is the ac­count man­ager of choice in the in­ter­na­tional ki­wifruit cat­e­gory and with a year-round sup­ply of con­sis­tently high qual­ity fruit, we can achieve that.”

“Ki­wifruit makes up just 0.22% of the global fruit bas­ket so there is ob­vi­ously a huge op­por­tu­nity for growth across all Ze­spri cat­e­gories.”

Mathieson ac­knowl­edges that Ze­spri en­joys a priv­i­leged po­si­tion as the sole ex­porter and mar­keter of New Zealand ki­wifruit to the world (with the ex­cep­tion of Aus­tralia). With that priv­i­lege comes an obli­ga­tion to per­form for grow­ers.

With no on-shore com­pe­ti­tion to com­pare against, Mathieson said Ze­spri looks to other highly suc­cess­ful in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies such as Nes­tle and Unilever as per­for­mance bench marks.

Ze­spri’s HQ at Mount Maun­ganui is the heart of the grow­ing and post-har­vest in­dus­try and Mathieson said the Sin­ga­pore of­fice is the heart of in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­ing. It’s in the Sin­ga­pore “cen­tre of ex­cel­lence” that sales and mar­ket­ing strate­gies are for­mu­lated for im­ple­men­ta­tion by the other 20 Ze­spri of­fices world­wide.

Mathieson will spend time be­tween the head of­fice at Mount Maun­ganui and the sales and mar­ket­ing hub in Sin­ga­pore. “I re­alise the huge im­por­tance of work­ing closely with New Zealand grow­ers and in­dus­try lead­ers and I will spend sub­stan­tial time at Ze­spri’s head of­fice in Mount Maun­ganui. A strong and em­pow­ered New Zealand ex­ec­u­tive will also play a key role in main­tain­ing these key in­dus­try re­la­tion­ships.”

Mathieson took over from for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive Lain Jager who stepped down in Septem­ber af­ter nearly 10 years in the role. Jager led the in­dus­try through one of its most chal­leng­ing times – the out­break in New Zealand of the vine dis­ease Psa-V.

Mathieson, who paid trib­ute to Jager’s lead­er­ship skills, said that the re­cov­ery from the ini­tial im­pacts of Psa was quick due to the in­dus­try’s united na­ture, the strong sup­port of the gov­ern­ment and fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions which sup­ported grow­ers and the post-har­vest in­dus­try through the tough time.

“Psa is still with us and we can’t ig­nore that. There will also be other chal­lenges ahead but that’s one of the things about hor­ti­cul­ture – there’s never a dull mo­ment,” said Mathieson who is clearly a con­firmed ad­vo­cate of ki­wifruit.

In fact, as a child he loved green ki­wifruit so much he’d eat it with the skin on. Ze­spri Hayward Green re­mains his favourite, al­though, along with wife Reina and their three chil­dren Keanu (12), Sean (8) and Lanah (6) he also en­joys Ze­spri SunGold for its sweeter taste and the fact it’s al­ways ready to eat.

Mathieson can talk at length about the di­etary benefits of Ze­spri ki­wifruit; “eat­ing one piece of Ze­spri ki­wifruit a day pro­vides a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of your daily nu­tri­tional re­quire­ments”. Added to that, both green and gold fruit taste great too, thanks to Ze­spri’s high qual­ity stan­dards.

Mathieson said Ze­spri, to­gether with the sci­en­tists at Plant & Food Re­search, are get­ting closer to pro­duc­ing a com­mer­cial red fleshed ki­wifruit. “We are grow­ing vines in both hemi­spheres which gives breed­ers the ad­van­tage of two sea­sons in one year.”

The mar­ket is hun­gry for a great-tast­ing red, he said. “We held taste tests of a red ki­wifruit in Sin­ga­pore and the so­cial me­dia re­ac­tion was phe­nom­e­nal so we know the con­sumer wants a red fruit, but it has to be a great red, in terms of taste, ap­pear­ance, stor­age qual­i­ties, and tol­er­ance to Psa-V.” And like all Ze­spri prod­ucts, has to be pro­duced us­ing con­ven­tional, not GM breed­ing tech­niques.

Both Jager and Mathieson have been ap­pointed to the chief ex­ec­u­tive role from within the ranks of Ze­spri, which means both have a firm un­der­stand­ing of the in­dus­try.

Mathieson, who had a boy­hood dream of be­ing a vet, dis­cov­ered a tal­ent and love for the Ja­panese lan­guage at col­lege and af­ter grad­u­at­ing from AUT, worked in Tokyo for Om­ron and NEC in cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions, in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­ing and project man­age­ment roles.

In 2003 he joined Ze­spri Ja­pan as a mem­ber of its op­er­a­tions team and in Jan­uary 2013 was ap­pointed pres­i­dent of global sales and mar­ket­ing in Tokyo, be­fore mov­ing to Sin­ga­pore in 2015 to head up Ze­spri’s global sales and mar­ket­ing hub.

In the 15 years since he joined Ze­spri Mathieson has helped lead the de­vel­op­ment of Ze­spri’s busi­ness in Asia, serv­ing as the mar­ket­ing man­ager for South Korea and later South­east Asia, among other roles.

Now his task is to de­velop the busi­ness even fur­ther – sig­nif­i­cantly in­creas­ing Ze­spri’s share of “the global fruit bas­ket”.

“Psa is still with us and we can’t ig­nore that. There will also be other chal­lenges ahead but that’s one of the things about hor­ti­cul­ture – there’s never a dull mo­ment.”

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