Alibaba rival JD.com has partnered with two New Zealand horticulture firms.

The Chinese e-commerce giant is gearing up to deliver the first harvests of apples and kiwifruit of the year from Zespri and Rockit Global to Chinese consumers through its online and social media shopping platform.

Havelock North-based apple grower Rockit Global has launched a flagship store on JD.com and Zespri, which first set up a flagship store on the platform in 2017, has penned a deal to supply produce to the retailer's offline high-tech supermarket chain 7Fresh, which has a network of 10 stores.

JD.com plans to expand that number significantly, and hopes to have around 1000 7Fresh stores open throughout China within five years. Similarly like Alibaba with its Hema Fresh chain of supermarkets, the stores leverage technology to optimise the bricks and mortar experience.

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Rockit Global chief executive Austin Mortimer said the partnership with JD.com came about through a representative it has on the ground in China.

"One of the key benefits of being on [e-commerce platforms] is with the e-commerce customer you typically know who they are, what demographic they belong to, where they live and you can see if they are a re-purchaser or first time customer and you can get feedback from them," Mortimer said.

Data captured from e-commerce consumers influenced the company's marketing decisions, he said.

"One of our key purchasers is a millennial mum, and we target our marketing message to resonate with that demographic."

As a result of growing demand from Chinese consumers, Rockit Global will continue to increase its growing volumes by between 30 and 40 per cent each year over the next four years.

"We have a huge unsatisfied demand from China."

The company will send around 80 40-foot (12m) containers of produce to China this year. Close to 50 per cent of all produce it grows is sent to China, compared to about 2 per cent of its crop which remains in New Zealand.

Rockit Global also has a partnership with Alibaba and has had a flagship store on its Tmall and Tmall Fresh platforms. It was recently selected to be part of Alibaba's first Country Flagship Store on the platform, which features eighteen local premium food and beverage brands, along with Pic's and bread brand Vogel's.

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Zespri will be part of the second wave of brands to be put included in the New Zealand flagship store on the marketplace in June.

We have a huge unsatisfied demand from China.

Xiaozhou Zhou, head of JD.com's fresh food division at 7Fresh, said the company was pleased to further its partnerships with Zespri and Rockit Global.

"We can't wait to bring more of these healthy and naturally delicious New
Zealand fruits to [Chinese consumers]," Zhou said.

Chinese consumers' appetite for New Zealand produce is growing. New Zealand fruit exports to China exceeded $600 million last year and sales of fresh produce from New Zealand on JD.com increased by more than 80 per cent.

JD.com sources produce from more than 50 countries and regions globally with more than 110,000 fresh imported products on its platform. Its delivery network covers 300 cities spread throughout China.

JD.com is one of the world's largest internet companies, it generated $99.8 billion in revenue in the 2018 financial year and has around 300 million active users on its platform.