New Era in Kiwifruit Industry; First Fresh and ZESPRI Collaborate on Exports of New Gold Variety

Media Release - 08 February 2011

In a landmark collaborative marketing agreement, provided with indicative approval by industry regulator Kiwifruit New Zealand (KNZ), First Fresh NZ Ltd of Gisborne are set to launch a consumer trial of an early variety gold kiwifruit, FIRST GOLD, in Thailand and Hong Kong supermarkets.


This will be the first time a new gold kiwifruit variety has been approved for export under its own brand as part of the collaborative marketing arrangements provided for under Regulation 28 of the Kiwifruit Export Regulations 1999.


“The clearly defined opportunity is to capture early market space with New Zealand-grown FIRST GOLD and that’s exciting,” said Lain Jager ZESPRI CEO. “Importantly, this trial will help us to understand the interaction between FIRST GOLD and ZESPRI GOLD in the market. It is critical we open the season with a strong product that delivers a positive eating experience because this will help support the growth of the category in the markets. Conversely if the product disappoints early then that will obviously have implications for the broader positioning of the Gold category.


“First Fresh are experienced fruit marketers who are genuinely committed to the quality positioning of New Zealand kiwifruit and this has supported genuine collaboration and mutual agreement to a careful and considered step-by-step approach to market testing and commercialisation of the variety,” Lain continued.


“The trial of this new variety by First Fresh under the collaborative marketing arrangements will represent a new era for the kiwifruit industry and evidence our regulatory arrangements are robust and effective for non-ZESPRI products,” said Lain.


Collaborative marketing applications must meet regulatory requirements to improve the overall wealth of New Zealand kiwifruit suppliers. Currently there are 10 exporters with over 20 different market sales programmes, supplying New Zealand-grown kiwifruit to international markets (excluding Australia) under collaborative marketing approvals.


A limited supply (6,000 tray equivalents) of New Zealand-grown FIRST GOLD kiwifruit will be shipped to Thailand and Hong Kong for consumer sensory trials. This in-market trial will assess the consumer acceptance and commercial viability of FIRST GOLD as an early season entrant that is marketed in advance of the normal supply window for ZESPRI® GOLD Kiwifruit.


FIRST GOLD kiwifruit has been assessed and trialed in 2009 and 2010 as part of the ZESPRI new variety testing programme. With increased production volumes available in 2011, First Fresh NZ Ltd., in collaboration with ZESPRI, developed and submitted a collaborative marketing proposal to take FIRST GOLD into consumer trials in two key export markets.


The First Fresh collaborative marketing application was fully supported by ZESPRI as FIRST GOLD seeks to extend the category for New Zealand kiwifruit by providing a product that will occupy retail space that is not currently filled by New Zealand-grown kiwifruit. Significant collaboration between First Fresh and ZESPRI will continue in-market to achieve the best possible result for New Zealand kiwifruit suppliers.


“First Fresh has a long history in fruit supply and we remain committed to and passionate about the kiwifruit industry,” says First Fresh founder and current Chairman, Mr Bill Thorpe. “As strong supporters of the SPE industry structure, we have been able to create an opportunity through collaborative marketing to export other kiwifruit varieties, whilst protecting the wealth of New Zealand growers”. 


“We are excited about taking a new variety of gold kiwifruit into the consumer market,” said Mr Ian Albers, First Fresh Managing Director. “This collaborative approach to product testing and market development ensures that New Zealand-grown fruit taken into overseas markets is positioned strongly and that the benefits flow back to growers here.”


First Fresh, who currently export Class II green kiwifruit to Australia  and have a strong presence in both the domestic and export marketing arena for a wide range of products, will be responsible for creating a niche market in Thailand for FIRST GOLD, which will be available well before ZESPRI® GOLD enters the market.


First Fresh have successfully marketed FIRST GOLD into Australia in both 2009 and 2010.This experience with the product and a long-established working relationship with Thailand importer and distributor City Fresh Fruit Co, who manage other fruit and vegetable products from New Zealand, will facilitate access to retail markets and the appropriate positioning of FIRST GOLD.
   
“The markets of Thailand and Hong Kong have been selected because they are emerging markets with a strong demand for New Zealand Kiwifruit,” said Mr Albers. “Partner retail outlets in Thailand include Tops, Big-C, Tesco Lotus, Makro, Villa and Carrefour, which are all known as innovative marketers, supportive of line extension work.”


“Consumers in these markets are keen ZESPRI® GOLD Kiwifruit purchasers and the promise of a high-taste gold variety that is available earlier than ZESPRI® GOLD will be an attractive prospect,” added Mr Albers.


ZESPRI Asia will act as the sales agent in Hong Kong, marketing and conducting consumer testing of FIRST GOLD exclusively through Wellcome Supermarkets; Hong Kong’s largest and longest established supermarket.


“This programme demonstrates collaboration in the truest sense of the word,” says Lain Jager, ZESPRI CEO. “It brings together New Zealand kiwifruit growers and sales agents and overlays the international marketing expertise of ZESPRI in order to present an exciting prospect in the form of an early, high-taste gold kiwifruit to the discerning consumer.” 


New Zealand-grown FIRST GOLD is expected to be priced at least equal to that of ZESPRI GOLD® Kiwifruit in each market, allowing a smooth transition for the introduction of larger volumes of ZESPRI® GOLD Kiwifruit.


FIRST GOLD kiwifruit originate from the Gisborne orchard of Mr Fred Lewis and the Bay of Plenty orchard of Mr Simon Dickie. Each have made a significant investment in converting to FIRST GOLD and together with other growers have the potential to increase productivity to achieve a target of 400,000 trays by 2014.


The harvest and packing of fruit for the FIRST GOLD collaborative marketing programme will be conducted by NZ Fruits Ltd of Gisborne to meet all export quality size and taste requirements. The crop is expected to be harvested in March 2011 and following grading and packing, will be shipped to Thailand and Hong Kong, ready for limited retail sale in early April 2011. 

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About First Fresh NZ Limited:
First Fresh NZ Ltd is a Gisborne-based fruit and produce marketing company formed in 1989 by chairman Bill Thorpe. The creation of a marketing organisation to represent his considerable growing and packing interests was the logical next step. In the ensuing 22 years First Fresh has become a stalwart of the Gisborne Horticultural scene. It is the longest serving marketing company in the region and together with sister company NZ Fruits Ltd provides shareholder and independent growers with first class post harvest facilities and over 100 years of combined experience in marketing and orchard management.

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