Monday, April 22, 2024

First load off to Hawaii under iwi kiwifruit push 

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Consignment will test ‘indigeneity as a marketing strength’ with Zespri’s help.
Iwi elder Turi Ngatai blesses the first consignment of kiwifruit headed to Hawaii under the Māori Kiwifruit Growers initiative. Photo Jamie Troughton Dscribe Media Services
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Iwi kiwifruit growers have shipped their first container load of kiwifruit to Hawaii in what they hope will become a wider marketing initiative for not only to iwi orchardists but the entire kiwifruit sector.

The first container-load of kiwifruit bound for Hawaii was loaded after a short ceremony at EastPack’s Te Puke cool stores, for shipment via South Korea. The 20t load consisted largely of SunGold fruit and was the first of three intended to be sent this season.

The shipment is the first initiative of Māori Kiwifruit Growers (MKG) under a collaborative marketing plan that gives the group the rights to sell Zespri-branded fruit into the Hawaiian market. Zespri offers collaborative marketing opportunities in niche or emerging markets around the world to 15 companies.

MKG general manager Amy Tocker said with iwi ownership now contributing about 10% of crop volume, building relationships at a marketing level through such agreements is an opportunity for iwi to have more skin in the game. 

The initial container comprised fruit from a variety of orchards, but organisers are working to source fruit specifically from iwi-owned orchards for future dispatches.

“We become exporters in our own right, bearing the costs and risks that go with that, and if we do a good job on volume and value, that will also benefit all growers.”
The first Hawaiian shipment marks the completion of two years of hard work for Tocker and her colleagues. 

They have aligned the group with Aloun Farms Hawaii, a company specialising in growing quality seasonal produce in Hawaii that also has a strong focus on employing locals, community pastoral care and working with indigenous groups. 

As a market, Hawaii is far from the biggest for Zespri fruit, accounting for about 80,000 trays a year. 

But Tocker said given the Aloun company’s values, and the relative small size of the market, it is a good place to start such an initiative.

She said the market provides a good opportunity to leverage off shared values and indigenous links including festivals like Matariki, which is starting to be celebrated more in Hawaii, albeit in October.

The Pacific Festival of Arts is another event that could be used for marketing and promotion, and  iwi also have strong links to the University of Hawaii.

“We have a larger supermarket chain up there that is relatively untapped that we would like to build a relationship with. With orchards along the East Coast, it also means we have the potential to sell early fruit into the market.”

Rex Anderson, property manager for Whiritoa Orchards at Te Teko, winner of the 2022 regional Ballance Farm Environment Awards, said it is a credit to Zespri that is has enabled the initiative to take place.  

His hope is that the effort will prove to be a springboard into mainland United States for more fruit.

“Provenance is a big thing for markets overseas. It is a point of difference there and an opportunity for Zespri to look at how to incorporate it into its marketing too.”

He said he hopes the initiative will provide a good start to promote the iwi group’s other products, which include blueberries and mānuka honey.

Tocker said the collaborative effort provides an opportunity to test indigeneity as a marketing strength, with Zespri, as one of the world’s most powerful fruit brands, offering support.

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