This year's kiwifruit crop is a taste record-breaker, says global marketer Zespri.

Long dry spells and good conditions during the 2018-2019 growing season produced higher dry matter content which has delivered the best tasting fruit ever, said chief executive Dan Mathieson.

The flipside is that fruit - both green and gold - will be smaller.

New Zealanders aren't likely to notice much difference in size from last year because exported fruit is usually larger than that offered to the domestic market.

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Overseas shoppers may spot the difference but the top quality taste of the crop is expected to bring them back for more so sales volumes shouldn't be impacted, Mathieson said.

Also, the smaller the fruit the lower the price, he said.

The new selling year had started strongly, following last year's record volume crop of 150 million export trays, up from 122m the previous year. A feature of the new sales year was strong repeat orders, Mathieson said.

Zespri would make a decision later this year on whether to fully commercialise a new red fruit variety, which it had recently trialled in New Zealand and Singapore supermarkets to "an exceptional response", he said.

The company would also decide about this time on commercialisation of another new variety, a sweet green fruit.

While the red variety has won over consumers with its sweet, ready to eat characteristics, Zespri still faced challenges over how to deal with its export storage because of its fast ripening tendency.

The challenge would be more acute for red fruit bound for Europe which involves 5 weeks on a ship, than to Asia with a two week shipping time.

An advantage of both the new red and sweet green varieties is that they are ready early in the annual harvest, which smoothes the market transition to the later available Sungold and Hayward green fruit, said Zespri.

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Japan was Zespri's "superstar" market last year, growing by 6m trays of green and gold fruit, Mathieson said.

China, the national marketer's fastest growing market, grew by 5m trays to 27m, while the developing North American market showed strong demand for organic fruit.
Zespri now employs 15 people in North America as it nurtures sales growth in this new territory.

Another market star performer was Spain, which bought 20m trays of fruit, Mathieson said.

Zespri had only three markets where sales top 20m trays - Japan, China and Spain.

Zespri's operating revenue last season was $2.9 billion, with licensing revenue taking total revenue to more than $3b and putting in easily on track for its target of $4.5b annual revenue by 2025.

Mathieson said a focus for Zespri now was the sustainability of its business and the industry, particularly to find alternatives to plastic packaging and to the sector's water use.

Consumer insistence that industries find sustainable practice solutions was "a voice that has never been louder", he said.

"It's no longer good enough just to have the best kiwifruit in the world."