More than a decade of work came to fruition yesterday for Zespri when the kiwifruit exporter announced plans to commercialise three new varieties.
Zespri said 600ha of the new varieties would be licensed to be planted or grafted this season - about 5 per cent of all land planted in kiwifruit.
The new varieties were an early-season gold, a long-storing gold and a sweet green fruit.
Zespri said the decision to proceed followed a 10-year development programme in association with the Government through Plant & Food Research, four years of orchard, storage, shipping and taste tests and extensive work with growers and international customers.
Chief executive Lain Jager said more than 50,000 potential varieties had been part of the programme.
More than 10,000 had been short-listed, 40 went to growing trials, four made it to orchard trials and three reached commercialisation.
Zespri said it would also start orchard trials for two more new varieties, bothred fruits, with results expected to be available in the next two to three years.
Commercialisation of the new sweet green kiwifruit provided growers with an attractive option for a new market segment, Jager said.
"The sweet green will be exported into premium markets and decisions about how it will be branded will be made next year," he said.
"Our market managers see strong potential for sales at the start of the season and - being a new sweet variety - it also has the potential to attract new consumers to kiwifruit."
The announcement was the start of a programme to progressively and sustainably expand Zespri's product range over the next decade and beyond and to triple export earnings by 2025, Jager said.
Zespri said it sold more than $1.5 billion of fruit in the 2009/10 season, managed 30 per cent of internationally traded fruit and supplied more than 60 countries.
The announcement from Zespri yesterday came days after fresh-produce company Turners & Growers said it was growing several thousand EnzaRed red kiwifruit plants in Italy to establish orchards in Italy and France and was working to establish New Zealand as a Southern Hemisphere growing hub for the fruit.
The EnzaRed fruit was in its third season of commercial production in China, Turners & Growers said.