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Zespri SunGold starts U.S. season; significant volume increases forecast

In early May, bulk shipments of New Zealand’s Zespri kiwifruit were expected to reach both East and West Coast ports meaning the popular SunGold variety should be in produce departments across the country by the third week of May.sungold

Sarah Deaton, Zespri’s shopper marketing manager for North America, said the Zespri branded fruit from New Zealand will be in the marketplace until early December and then sales will continue with the SunGold variety being sourced from Italy for a couple of more months into 2020. Zespri has calculated a one-third increase in SunGold volume this year for North America. This comes on the heels of a 40 percent increase in production of the burgeoning gold-interior variety during the 2018 marketing season. Deaton said there should be promotable volume of SunGold fruit available for Memorial Day weekend. The North American-based Zespri representatives have been putting together programs for retailers so Deaton said if you are not on a program yet “please reach out to us.”

She urged retailers to “stock up early and keep the momentum going throughout the year,” adding that there are numerous time slots when SunGold kiwifruit promotions make sense, including during “the July doldrums” and during “back-to-school promotions.”

This month, Zespri will immediately begin promoting the crop with a national advertising and marketing campaign. The promotion will utilize print advertising in many different publications, as well as digital advertising on Hulu and a robust social media campaign through all the popular internet sites. The tag line for the promotion is “Let Your Tastes Wander.” The national promotional will run through October.

The SunGold kiwifruit has a unique flavor, which is often called a cross between a mango and a strawberry. “It has a tropical sweet taste,” Deaton said, noting that the campaign capitalizes on this fact, preparing consumers for a different taste sensation. She added that the weather in New Zealand during the recently-concluded summer growing season was great as the down-under country had a dry summer that increased the “dry matter” content of the fruit enhancing its flavor profile. SunGold kiwifruit has to pass specific taste measurements before it is picked and shipped to market.

The marketing effort also includes point of sale material, allowing for the building of attractive displays in-store. SunGold is an impulse buy for most consumers so visible displays are key to increased sales, according to the Zespri representative. She also noted that sales of gold kiwifruit do not cannibalize the sales of green kiwifruit. “When green and gold are sold side by side, sales of both soar. Both pieces of fruit are part of the kiwi portfolio. We like to say we have a kiwi for everyone.”

The company is also introducing new packaging graphics this year to catch the attention of the consumer offering better brand visibility and more clearly calling out the advantages of the SunGold variety, including its nutritional profile. SunGold kiwifruit has a great nutritional story to tell. It has three times more vitamin C than an orange and is also a great source of potassium and soluble fiber. The fruit arrives at the U.S. ports in bulk but after clearing customs it is packed in one and two-pound consumer packs for shipment to retailers.

Deaton said Zespri’s promotional campaigns for the SunGold variety over the last couple of years have been very effective. “In the top U.S. cities, we have increased our brand awareness by 170 percent and nationwide we have seen a 41 percent increase in brand awareness,” she said, adding that this year’s national campaign should increase that number even further.

Zespri International is the marketing arm for New Zeeland kiwifruit growers, as well as for other kiwifruit growers across the world who have acquired licenses to grow the SunGold variety. Deaton said Zespri continues to expand its grower base in an effort to create a year-round supply of SunGold as well as Zespri Green Kiwifruit and Zespri Organic Kiwifruit. Currently, the organization has growers in countries including Italy, Greece, France and Japan.

Zespri International exports premium kiwifruit and is recognized as one of the world’s most successful horticulture marketing companies. Based in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand, Zespri is 100 percent owned by current or past kiwifruit growers. The Zespri brand is the global leader in premium quality kiwifruit with 2,500 growers in New Zealand and 1,200 growers based elsewhere. Zespri manages kiwifruit innovation and supply management, distribution management and marketing of Zespri Green, Zespri SunGold, and Zespri Organic.