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Exclusive interview with Zespri CEO Dan Mathieson

Zespri will introduce new red kiwi fruit variety to Chinese market next year

Zespri is the leading brand in the global kiwi fruit market. They sell around 100 million boxes of kiwi fruit per year in more than 70 countries around the world. And China is one of the largest markets for Zespri kiwi fruit. Ever since Zespri entered the Chinese market, their team has worked hard to collaborate with Chinese planters and suppliers to jointly stimulate the modernization of the Chinese agricultural industry. Moreover, Zespri has established a significant investment portfolio to work towards the modernization of Chinese agriculture.

Dan Mathieson was appointed CEO of Zespri in September 2017. He already has more than 19 years of experience with Zespri, first as Director of Global Sales and Marketing, and now as CEO. He introduced a demand-driven strategy to guide Zespri's sales and marketing services, as well as their offshore market services. While Zespri continued to develop a mature kiwi fruit market, Dan Mathieson also actively opened up new markets. He also guided business function developments with a particular focus on the relations between consumers, distributors, and retailers. He considered how he could stimulate developments in the industry and increase the value of Zespri.

Dan Mathieson answered questions during the iFresh Asia panel at the fourth China International Import Expo in 2021

iFresh Asia: what has Zespri achieved in the 22 years since the company entered the Chinese market?
Dan Mathieson told iFresh Asia that Zespri sold less than a million standard boxes of kiwi fruit in early 2000. The profit was less than 1 million USD. Sales have greatly improved since then. Zespri recently reached a milestone of 30 million boxes with a sales value of 800 million New Zealand Dollars [551 million USD].

"Zespri still has a lot of room to grow in the Chinese market. We are always advancing our own brand. And Zespri is now one of the most popular brands in the Chinese fruit market. At the same time, we have also begun to pay more attention to stable supply. When the supply from New Zealand is insufficient, we can import a limited additional supply volume from Italy to satisfy Chinese market demand."

Zespri will continue to pay close attention to supply conditions in China. According to Dan Mathieson, Zespri researched the possibility for a New Zealand-style kiwi fruit industry in China, so that Chinese farmers can supply Chinese consumers with the highest quality of kiwi fruit.

iFresh Asia: what measures will Zespri implement to realize strategic developments in a global, networked market?
Dan Mathieson explained that Zespri will develop their service platform with a focus on three elements: sustainable development, innovation, and digitization.

1. Sustainable development. Zespri firmly believes in helping China resolve social issues, environmental issues, and issues of sustainability. That is the only way to guarantee sustainable services in China as the involvement of Zespri in the Chinese market grows.

2. Innovation. Zespri aims to introduce a wider variety of fruit products. Of course, Zespri will always introduce high-quality fruit varieties that suit the taste of Chinese consumers, but does not have to be limited to that. Zespri can also develop a new range of services.

3. Digitization. "30% of the Zespri fruit sales this year took place online. That is a very high percentage. But we think that in five years time the online sales percentage will rise to 50%. That is an exciting thought!"

iFresh Asia: could you briefly introduce the new red kiwi fruit variety?
Zespri has never stopped making advances in the field of innovation. We started with traditional green kiwi fruit, introduced yellow kiwi fruit varieties, and now we have developed a new red kiwi fruit variety. This new variety entered the Chinese market in small volumes at the beginning of the 2021 season, and the first feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

"The Zespri red kiwi fruit variety is a unique fruit. This beautiful fruit tastes like a berry and has a striking red heart that draws the attention of consumers. We have discovered that younger consumers in particular are drawn to this red kiwi fruit variety. The new variety helps us reach a new consumer audience."

Zespri will introduce the red kiwi fruit variety in large volumes in 2022. The market is expected to develop quickly. The Zespri red kiwi fruit plantations in New Zealand now cover an area of 500 hectares, and in the coming few years Zespri hopes to add another 300-500 hectares.

iFresh Asia: how is the red kiwi fruit different from Chinese kiwi fruit?
The Chinese red kiwi fruit variety is only red in the core, but the Zespri variety is not only red in the core, but also in other places as well as both ends. Moreover, the flavor of Zespri red kiwi fruit is unique. Zespri red kiwi fruit has a rich berry flavor. The Zespri red kiwi fruit is also rich in proanthocyanidins. The fragrance, flavor, and nutritional value are incomparable. There is also a difference in terms of production volume. The Zespri red kiwi fruit has one of the largest production volumes compared to other red kiwi fruit varieties. That is great news for planters and consumers alike.

Source: iFresh Asia

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