Zespri's decision to team up with NZX-listed T&G to increase sales in Southeast Asia is already bearing fruit, says the kiwifruit marketing organisation's Singapore-based regional manager, Andrew Common.
In February, T&G (Turners and Growers as was) and Zespri agreed to jointly market fruit in the region.
T&G opened an office in Thailand this year to represent and support the two firms' sales and marketing activities selling Zespri Green and Zespri SunGold in Thailand, alongside T&G's branded Jazz and Envy apples.
T&G has a strong presence in the region, selling about $25 million worth of apples in Thailand alone.
"Under this structure, we have already started to see some benefit come through," Common told the Herald. "We are on track this year for 63 per cent growth in volumes."
Zespri had previously confined its Thailand sales effort to the greater Bangkok area, which has a population of 14 million, but is now looking further afield to the rest of the nation's 67 million people. Thailand already has one of the highest per capita rates of fruit consumption in the world.
"As people become wealthier, kiwifruit is becoming more affordable," Common said.
Zespri's goal is to sell a million trays in Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos in the 2016 season.
That goal compares with expected sales this year of 20 million trays to China, but combined with Singapore (1 million trays), Malaysia (2 million) and Indonesia (1.5 million) the Southeast Asian market in total for Zespri is significant.
Zespri's sales in China are up 40 per cent on last year, overtaking Japan as a largest country market this year, but the company is wary of becoming too reliant on a small number of markets taking a lot of its fruit.
The deal with T&G was the first of its kind to be approved by regulator Kiwifruit NZ. Under the kiwifruit regulations, Zespri is the primary exporter of NZ-grown kiwifruit beyond New Zealand and Australia.
T&G is 73 per cent owned by Germany's BayWa.