Red kiwifruit could be coming to a store near you, as global marketer Zespri seeks customer opinion in a nationwide sales trial.
Zespri wants to know what Kiwis and retailers think of the taste, colour, shelf-life and storage handling of the red fruit, still some way off full commercialisation.
The company will release 30,000 trays of the fruit grown in a handful of New Zealand orchards to both national supermarket chains and selected retailers over the next five weeks, said Zespri cultivar innovation manager Bryan Parkes.
The fruit's recommended retail price was $7 per kg, he said.
If Zespri "gets it right", red kiwifruit was potentially as big a seller as its gold and green fruit.
But there's still quite a bit of work to do before Zespri red is grown and released in volume. Some of that work relates to consumers' reaction to the trial, and to their willingness to pay for the fruit.
It won't be the first time red kiwifruit has been offered in New Zealand stores, or Zespri's first effort at producing a red fruit. A cultivar being tested in 2010 was killed off by the Psa disease which devastated the industry.
Parkes said Zespri had 36 red cultivars in trials in its current programme.
"We know there's a lot of excitement about the potential for a red kiwifruit ... the fruit itself brings some pretty distinct characteristics that many of our consumers won't have experienced before.
"Its vibrant red flesh stems from anthocyanin, a unique and naturally-occurring pigment within the fruit and it has a sweet taste similar to our SunGold kiwifruit but with a nice berry twist," Parkes said.
Aside from the taste and colour, the red kiwifruit fruit performs differently to green and gold.
The fruit ripens faster, especially in warm temperatures. It tastes especially good when softer, and therefore should be kept refrigerated.
Zespri Red is the latest kiwifruit to come through Zespri's natural breeding programme and has been developed in partnership with Plant & Food Research.