Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson says when he first worked in China 20 years ago that market took 2% of New Zealand’s kiwifruit exports, and it now takes 20%.
He told the China Business Seminar that China is one of Zespri’s highest-returning markets and one that is very important.
“We have a very strong position in China with healthy, nutritious foods that their consumers want,” Mathieson said.
In recent times more Chinese consumers have also wanted to support local production, so NZ producers need to find ways of contributing to China’s supply in the season that works for them.
After an uncertain beginning in which mistakes were made, Zespri now has 100 people in China having conversations with officials and partners.
“Choosing the right partners in China has been a challenge and now that we have done so we are keen to share our assessments with other fresh fruit producers.
“Cross-reference what you are hearing with a whole lot of other players,” he said.
“If there are challenges, they must be out on the table.
“You may not always find the solution but everyone at the meeting is thinking about the same challenges and trying to find solutions.”
For example, Zespri had to deal with covid finds on fruit two years ago and the need to move the entry port away from Shanghai.
In 2016 it became importer of record to ensure it had greater knowledge of everything involved in getting products to market.
Growers here are concerned with the spread of locally grown Sungold kiwifruit in China and want to see more IP protection.
“It is a huge market and there is room to co-exist with the locally produced kiwifruit.
“While we want strong Zespri brand awareness, we also want to grow the category alongside strong domestic brands.”
Zespri’s sale projections to 2030 include doubling the volume going to China, and 50% of sales being made online.
Using digital platforms in China provides lessons on how to sell that way in other markets. For instance, European and British consumers are among the world’s most digitally connected but they do not buy the foods online like the Chinese do.