Prime Minister John Key officially launched the 2016 season for Zespri in China at an event last night, marking a new phase for Zespri's China Strategy.
Chief Executive Lain Jager said having the Prime Minister launch Zespri's season in Shanghai was a great start to what is set to be a record-breaking season.
"China is poised to become Zespri's number one market by volume this season and will account for around one-fifth of all our sales. We anticipate sales of around 24 million trays in 2016, up about one-third from the 18 million trays sold last season," said Mr Jager.
Zespri had launched a new phase of its China Strategy to support this growth which includes expanding to five representative offices in-market; increasing staff numbers from 25 to 90 over the next three years; and joining with local partners to investigate growing Zespri kiwifruit in China as part of its 12-month global supply strategy.
Zespri had also reconfigured its business model in China to become importer of record, recognising the maturing of its China operations and aligning with the model used in its long-established Japan and European markets.
"Ultimately this change will allow us to optimise our quality delivery in market and offer an enhanced level of service to our distribution customers," said Mr Jager.
Zespri Kiwifruit had been sold in China for over a decade now.
Zespri was building on its history in the China market by broadening its distribution and sales from tier 1 and 2 Chinese cities and the Eastern Seaboard, expanding inland into other large provincial cities and more tier 2 and tier 3 cities.
"This expansion will be supported by new regional offices opening this year in Guangzhou, Xian and Chongqing and our in-market staff numbers are set to treble over the next few years. Zespri is one of the top fruit brands in the cities where we sell and we'll continue to invest strongly in marketing again this year to introduce more consumers to our premium product and build returns to our grower-shareholders," said Mr Jager.
Zespri's investment in China continued as the company investigates the feasibility of growing Zespri Kiwifruit in China as part of its 12-month global supply strategy.
Zespri sources premium kiwifruit from the Northern Hemisphere to provide its customers with Zespri Kiwifruit where NZ kiwifruit was not available.
"We are excited about the potential of partnering with Chinese growers to supply the important domestic market season with Zespri-branded kiwifruit in the long term. This will support our key strategy of 12-month supply and aligns to the partnership approach we have with growers and post-harvest partners in Italy, France, Korea and Japan."
Mr Jager says Zespri's absolute focus on quality starts on the orchard. "Any decision to potentially source Zespri Kiwifruit in China would be made with our reputation for premium kiwifruit top of mind and is likely some years away," said Mr Jager.