Significant growth opportunities for NZ kiwifruit in US - analyst

The US market offers significant growth potential for New Zealand kiwifruit exporters, says an agribusiness analyst based there.

Presenting to kiwifruit growers across New Zealand via a webinar, California-based RaboResearch senior analyst Roland Fumasi said while kiwifruit was not yet a "big deal" in the US market, demand for the product was undoubtedly shifting in the right direction. 

"At a quarter of a kilogram per capita each year, kiwifruit consumption in the US falls a long way behind some of the more popular fruits like strawberries which are at close to four kilograms per capita each year," he said. 

"However, we have seen good growth in kiwifruit consumption in recent years and it is now one of the more rapidly-growing products in the US fruit and nut space." 

He said an ongoing focus on consumer education and development of value-added products would be required if New Zealand was to fully capitalise on the opportunity.

Roland Fumasi is a California-based RaboResearch senior analyst.
Roland Fumasi is a California-based RaboResearch senior analyst. Photo credit: Supplied

Fumasi said there were a number of factors driving increased demand, including greater awareness of the health benefits of kiwifruit and the emergence of the kiwifruit gold variety. 

"The healthfulness of kiwifruit is off-the-charts and is a major factor in growing demand over recent years, particularly among households with more disposable income."

"We've also seen good growth in sales of gold kiwifruit, with the sweeter flavour proving a hit with many consumers. Another factor in its popularity is it's more ready to eat when you buy it and provides a more consistent eating experience." 

To maintain a price premium and grow market share, Fumasi said the New Zealand kiwifruit industry would need to continue supplying exceptionally high- quality product while also exploring additional consumer education and value-added opportunities. 

"Consistency of eating experience has been a challenge for kiwifruit over the years, as sometimes consumers biting into a kiwifruit a little too early can get a very sour eating experience."

A further factor to consider was increasing the convenience of the product. 

"While most would consider kiwifruit to be relatively convenient, it's not as convenient as some of the fruit it competes against, like blueberries or blackberries, and this is significant given convenience is so important for today's younger consumers."

The organic market was also a further market which held growth potential for New Zealand kiwifruit, despite a leveling off in organic food sales in the US. 

"I still see plenty of potential for increased sales of organic kiwifruit as the reported volumes of organic kiwifruit are currently really low and increased supply in the short run will not outstrip demand."