Sustainability the Zespri Way

​Zespri has a long history of innovation and continuous improvement across the lifecycle of its products. It makes Zespri the acknowledged leaders in delivering premium quality, healthy and nutritious kiwifruit to consumers all around the world. The quality of our natural environment; the efficiency and sophistication of our specialist supply chain system; and the skills and commitment of our people are all critical factors underpinning our premium brand. Zespri has an absolute commitment to research and development of new technology to continue enhancing the way we operate across our integrated supply chain – the Zespri System. We work with leading research institutes and partners to understand and improve our environmental position, while a cross-functional team spanning our industry assesses the feasibility of new sustainability initiatives and supports their implementation.

Zespri is committed to growing a better, healthier future.

“Sustainability is a passion—it’s about leaving our property in better condition for the future generations, including our children and grandchildren.“ Graham Dyer, Zespri Kiwifruit grower BayPark Orchard, Tauranga, New Zealand.

Zespri is committed to growing a better, healthier future. Download and read Zespri's Sustainability Brochure.

Delivery to Markets

Zespri uses highly efficient direct shipping to reach consumers across the world.

Shipping is responsible for the greatest contribution to the total carbon output in the Zespri supply chain. This also means that shipping provides the greatest opportunity for reductions in emissions.

One step Zespri takes to limit emissions is to use highly efficient direct shipping, wherever possible, to supply our kiwifruit to consumers across the world. Zespri Kiwifruit is increasingly transported on larger and more efficient vessels. Zespri prefers to use shipping services that have direct transits to market, avoiding and reducing double handling of cargo at transhipment ports. Also, where market timeliness permits vessels can be slow steamed to market, reducing fuel consumption.

In accordance with the International Maritime Organisation’s decision, from 2020 onwards, all ships Zespri use will burn low sulphur fuel. This is a significant step taken by international shipping to play its part in reducing the impact of fuel emissions on our environment and we fully support it.

Zespri also works closely with our shipping partners to bring new innovation into any future ship builds. In 2017 Zespri embarked on a major shipping conversion of cargo in the North Europe market. Traditionally the market was serviced by conventional reefer vessels. Today the cargo is carried on new specialized container reefer vessels. These ships are equipped with the latest technology, have larger cargo carrying capacity, and are more fuel efficient.

Managing Carbon

Carbon Footprint Lifecycle Measurement

Zespri led the way in the world’s horticultural sector, working in collaboration with the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries to create a comprehensive carbon footprint across the lifecycle of New Zealand kiwifruit. The study identifies the pattern of emissions across the lifecycle from the orchard to consumption in the market as a basis for prioritising emission reduction initiatives. The study provides a basis for research investment to develop new knowledge and tools to adapt our business and reduce emissions, ultimately driving positive reductions in environmental impacts.

Zespri utilised global best practice, applying the PAS 20/50 methodology to develop a full product lifecycle carbon footprint for each of our products; Zespri Green, Gold and Organic Kiwifruit. Consumer demand for healthy and nutritious products, such as premium quality kiwifruit, continues to grow across the world and Zespri is focussed on meeting this growing demand while applying best practice production and supply chain systems to be environmentally responsible.


Soil Carbon Storage in Kiwifruit Orchards

Soil is a key global resource for removing and storing carbon emissions from the atmosphere and Zespri recently invested in a major study to understand carbon storage in our 13,500 hectares of kiwifruit soils.

Kiwifruit vines are quite unique with their extensive root systems reaching over 9 metres deep in search of water and nutrients. Through the seasonal growth cycle the roots continuously incorporate organic material deep into the soil. This process of building soil carbon is supported by earthworm activity.

The three-year study was funded by the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries Sustainable Farming Fund and conducted by the Plus Group and Plant & Food Research Limited.

Key findings:

  • Kiwifruit vines actively build soil carbon over time at a rate of 3 tonnes of CO2 equivalents per hectare per annum while the soil carbon levels in many other crops are reducing.
  • Soils rich in carbon are a major driver of vine health and productivity.
  • Up to half of the 3.9 percent per annum best practice carbon emission reduction emerging from leading companies involved in the Carbon Disclosure Project could be offset by soil carbon sequestration.
  • The next phase will understand how changes in growing techniques influence soil carbon.

Benefits of soils rich in carbon:

  • Improved soil fertility and productivity.
  • Improved nutrient holding capacity and reduced risk of nutrient leaching.
  • Improved water retention.
  • Removes greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Increased resilience to climate change.
  • Secures the supply of healthy and nutritious food


Packing and Cooling

The supply chain for packing Zespri Kiwifruit is highly integrated and focussed on optimising efficiency and performance in packing, cooling and supply chain logistics to deliver excellent quality fruit to our customers.

Correct coolstorage is fundamental in ensuring the delivery of high quality fruit. Zespri, in partnership with Massey University, EMCS Limited and Energy Response has worked with the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) to identify opportunities to minimise energy inputs and improve energy efficiency in coolstores and set best practice procedures. Significant gains were made through the monitoring phase of the study. For example, when the defrost cycle (removing ice from the evaporators) was changed from every 6 hours to every 8 hours there was no impact on room temperatures or fruit quality, but a big impact on energy efficiency and emission reductions. A suite of initiatives showed potential to reduce coolstore power use in many cases by over 10%.  These practices are already being adopted by the industry.

"By setting an industry standard for best practice, we can significantly reduce the amount of energy used by coolstores," says Frank Bollen, Technical Manager, Zespri.

 Initiatives to enhance fruit performance:

  • Commercial trial of ’Whole of Chain’ temperature monitoring utilizing X-Sense, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.
  • Implementation of lean manufacturing concepts, already successful in several facilities.
  • Enhanced quality focused information systems to enhance inventory and quality management.

Packing Innovations

Zespri packaging is 100 percent recyclable and configured to protect and enhance the fruit performance with several research projects underway to deliver new environmentally responsible options for the future.

Next Generation Fruit Labels

In a world first, Zespri introduced compostable fruit labels across all Zespri Organic kiwifruit in 2013 following a large scale trial in 2012. Zespri has had a goal of introducing compostable fruit labels for several years with the ideal situation of the label naturally breaking down when the fruit skin is discarded. Making a high-quality Zespri brand label to stick to kiwifruit skin, hold together under the high humidity and cold temperatures in storage, and then break down when discarded with the fruit skin is a real challenge. A range of different materials have been trialled with varying results.
Zespri has worked closely with US-based packaging manufacturer Sinclair to overcome the significant technical challenges involved. Manufacturer Sinclair tested the degradability of the PLA based labels to international ASTM standards (American Society for Testing and Materials) and found they degraded within 22 weeks with less than ten percent of the original dry matter remaining – well within the agreed specifications, with home compost trials to follow.

Biohybrid™ Plastic Polyliners

Alternative bio-plastic materials are being investigated to replace the polyethylene (PE) plastic bags that protect and reduce hydration in packs of Zespri Kiwifruit. The new high renewable content material has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 6.6 percent without compromising the primary function of supporting fruit quality.

Bio-plastic Pocket Packs.

Pocket packs protect the fruit in layered packs during transport. Trials of renewable sourced bio-plastics are underway with significant carbon footprint reduction potential.


Description and Overview
Scion is working with Zespri to replace the current petrochemical-based (conventional plastic) spife with an environmentally friendly version. A spife is a spoon-knife utensil for cutting, scooping and eating kiwifruit. It is sold in retail packs of Zespri Kiwifruit.

The biospife is made using technology developed by Scion which transforms kiwifruit residues into a plastically processable material which can then be formulated with other plastics, such as polylactic acid (PLA).

Environmental and Economic Benefits
Like all conventional plastic products, the current spife is based on non-renewable resources, is unable to be composted and therefore is usually tossed in the bin. This adds around 3 percent to Zespri’s carbon footprint - too much for the eco-conscious company that markets its products around the world.

The biospife, is both renewable and compostable. In an industrial composting facility a spife will degrade within 6 months. It will break-down in a garden compost, but at a slower rate. Currently, thousands of tons of kiwifruit waste are dumped each year. This adds overhead costs to the industry. These valuable raw materials could be converted into bioplastics and used to make a range of innovative new products.

Future Developments
Although not yet commercially available, the biospife is proof that the concept works. It was produced in an industrial facility to demonstrate the product is compatible with existing plastics machinery. It is hoped, through the Scion-Zespri collaboration, that conventional plastics used in kiwifruit growing and packaging can be replaced by biodegradable or renewable bioplastics. These bioplastics based on kiwifruit residues are a win-win for everyone.

Excess fruit material is converted into a higher value product, the carbon footprint for Zespri is reduced and there are clear point-of-difference marketing benefits.


Fruit Quality

Zespri fruit performance is a critical component of our premium brand and a multipoint strategy is underway to further enhance the fruit performance and reduce costly fruit loss.

Initiatives to enhance fruit performance:

  • Commercial trial of ’Whole of Chain’ temperature monitoring utilising X-Sense, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.
  • Implementation of lean manufacturing concepts, already successful in several facilities.
  • Enhanced quality focussed information systems to enhance inventory and quality management.

Sustainable Growing

Zespri Kiwifruit growers operate with a core focus on producing premium quality kiwifruit while protecting the natural environment. Every grower is Global GAP compliant and a strict environmental framework is in place. Zespri leads research to identify best practice growing techniques, while many growers create and adopt their own environmentally friendly practices to optimise and protect the natural environment individual to their orchards.

Zespri Growers Biodiversity Focus

Zespri growers Graham and Mavis Dyer epitomise the sustainability culture as they strive to produce the best quality, superior tasting kiwifruit.  As supreme winners of the Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards, Graham and Mavis were recently recognised for their passion and commitment to sustainability as leaders across a number of industry’s. Graham and Mavis Dyer have a 12.5 hectare orchard and together with sons Gavin, Colin and Stephen, the family grow 37 hectares of Zespri Green and Gold Kiwifruit as well as future new Zespri varieties.

BayPark Orchard is at a higher altitude than most New Zealand orchards and has its challenges with twice the annual rainfall and lower sunshine hours. The orchard includes a pond linked to a hydroelectric power scheme, providing high quality renewable water for frost protection and irrigating young vines.

Around the lake and across the property the Dyers have extensive plantings of native and exotic plant species which they have been nurturing for decades. The orchards are managed with a strong sustainable philosophy, with crop protection and nutritional inputs minimised with natural birdlife and biodiversity flourishing. A focus on innovation and drive to refine the growing techniques has produced excellent fruit quality and yields, underpinning the financial sustainability.

Demonstrating their commitment to biodiversity and environmental preservation, the Dyers have established an internationally significant collection of Agathis (Kauri trees) and are actively supporting the establishment of a public Kauri grove for the wider community to enjoy.
8 percent of orchard land title is in ecological refuge, mainly in the form of exotic and indigenous forest, positively impacting on biodiversity and carbon sequestration potential. (ARGOS, 20101) 1 Agriculture Research Group On Sustainability (ARGOS).

Growing Excellence through Focus Orchard Network

Zespri is committed to helping kiwifruit growers maximise their orchard profitability and apply best practise growing techniques. The focus orchard network brings together orchardists, technical staff, consultants and Plant & Food Research scientists to trial new techniques.  Progress is monitored and shared with the wider industry to demonstrate the outcomes of on-orchard decisions.

Initially funded by the Ministry of Primary Industries Sustainable Farming Fund and now funded by Zespri, the project is an industry learning programme using the focus orchards as demonstration properties to show the different management options available to produce fruit with the attributes desired by our export markets, and the financial implications on the orchard’s bottom-line to producing and supplying such fruit.

It is acknowledged that there is no one single way to run a successful, profitable kiwifruit orchard business but for different management options we want to identify the measurable effects and the associated costs, benefits and tradeoffs of the different approaches as a basis for our growers to learn and for growing systems to evolve.

The Focus Orchard Network has been established across the growing regions and represents all of the available commercial varieties and both organic and conventional growing methods.

KiwiGreen Integrated Pest Management

Zespri has an integrated pest management system called KiwiGreen. This encourages growers to use natural weed and pest control methods, minimising the use of artificial sprays on the orchard. Most recently, we have been focusing on understanding the carbon footprint of Zespri Kiwifruit to prioritise initiatives to reduce the number of pesticides used. Fertiliser use has been minimised with new optimisation tools and naturally derived composts and nutrition products increasingly applied.

Natural Pollination with Bees

High quality pollination is a vital step in producing high quality, superior tasting kiwifruit. Natural bee pollination remains the primary pollination method for Zespri Kiwifruit, with bees being some of the hardest workers on the orchards visiting each flower up to 40 times. Zespri actively works with New Zealand beekeepers to support their industry and funds research to safeguard the future of natural bee pollination.

Water Management

“Sourcing renewable supplies of water and preserving the water quality is critical to our sustainable production.” Graham Dyer, Zespri® Kiwifruit grower BayPark Orchard, Tauranga

Governments and environmental agencies (NGO’s) along with some retailers want to understand more about the water management associated with consumer products. While water footprint research is in its infancy, Zespri commissioned a comprehensive study to gain better understanding of water use and management across its production and supply chain systems.  The study was completed by Landcare Research, Plant & Food Research Limited and AgriLink and co-funded by Zespri and the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI).

Key findings:

  • 100 percent of Zespri® Kiwifruit water use in New Zealand is from naturally replenished sources, including rainfall and underground aquifers.
  • 'Blue’ water that is applied for irrigation and frost protection accounts for only 5 percent of the total water footprint.
  • ‘Grey’ water has been minimised by the trend of reducing orchard crop protection and fertiliser inputs.

The deep roots of kiwifruit vines are very effective at seeking out water naturally with irrigation water primarily used for younger vines and for frost protection. More growers are also establishing offline water storage to meet their needs while minimising the pressure on resources. Additional research is underway to better define best practice water use to further optimise water use and support future new planting decisions.