Kiwifruit exporter Zespri is cashing in on soaring Covid-19 demand for fruit with high Vitamin C, recording its highest sales ever in hard-hit Europe.
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The grower-owned marketer has responded by making kiwifruit's high Vitamin C content its main marketing message, and with consumers spending more time at home because of the virus, it has shifted more of its marketing spend to in-home media along with digital and social media advertising, said chief growth officer Jiunn Shih.
"We know that one of the most popular searches on Google has been for foods high in Vitamin C so we're keen to ensure consumers know our kiwifruit can meet that need while also providing something that tastes delicious."
Twenty-three weeks into the current season, 75.1 million trays have been shipped - up 5.7m trays on the same time last season and 7.7m up on the same time in 2018.
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Despite the challenges of Covid-19, shipping to date was well ahead of the same point last year, said the company, which last year posted record revenue of $3 billion from fruit sales and licence earnings. Its goal is to achieve $4.5b sales by 2025.
The industry was on track to load another 510 containers and a further charter vessel by the end of this week. This would mean 28 ships had been loaded out of a total of 50 ships scheduled for the season and more than 7080 containers loaded this year to date.
On the marketing side, Shih said in China, Zespri had worked with three top e-commerce retailers using full-screen ads which had helped lift sales significantly.
It had also partnered with key Chinese opinion leaders.
A post about New Zealand kiwifruit health benefits by renowned Chinese volleyballer Zhu Ting had recorded more than 110 million views within 24 hours on social media channel Weibo.
An exclusive Zespri nutrition column on China's most popular health platform Ding Xiang had reached more than 3.8m people, Shih said.
Zespri's much-loved "Kiwi Brothers" campaign was trending highly in Japan and was being expanded into six markets in Europe and Vietnam this season.
The latest data from Japan's leading research institute CM Databank, which conducts a monthly consumer survey among 1500 consumers, showed Zespri's latest television commercial was ranked first out of 3341 ads in May in Japan.
The commercial also ranked second on Japan's trend list on Twitter, with more than 24,000 tweets within three hours, Shih said.
"The increase in online demand in Asia is more pronounced than in other parts of the world, however Covid-19 has cleared the way for this to now grow faster in regions outside Asia. Currently around 17.5 per cent of Zespri's total advertising and promotions spend is focused on digital and online media and the amount is set to increase year-on-year as we see sales grow."
Zespri will announce its 2019-2020 season results on Wednesday. They are expected to reflect another strong season for the industry.
In April chairman Bruce Cameron said the export season was off to a record start in the amount of crop picked, packed and shipped.
Early sales in the key China and Japan markets had been positive and there had been no shipping issues with fruit arrival in markets among the earliest ever, he said.
At that time the Zespri board believed it was likely to pay a dividend to growers this year, he said. Zespri had also lifted the bottom end of its forecast range of returns to growers.