Kiwifruit Strap

More than 180,000 cultivars and counting.

Plant and Food Research breeds more than 10,000 kiwifruit cultivars for Zespri every year - and every year most of them will fail.

But hopes are high for Zespri's new red kiwifruit variety which is in the trial stage. The New Zealand market is already sampling 30,000 trays this year.

Zespri cultivar innovation manager Bryan Parkes said there was a lot of excitement about the potential for a red kiwifruit.

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It was still under consideration for larger scale commercial plantings, although there has been a limited release into supermarkets around the country.

"The limited release will allow Zespri to hear what consumers and retailers think about the fruit's taste and storability which are important considerations for any future commercialisation."

Plant and Food research new cultivar innovation general manager Zac Hanley says it works closely with Zespri to development new kiwifruit varieties. Photo / Supplied
Plant and Food research new cultivar innovation general manager Zac Hanley says it works closely with Zespri to development new kiwifruit varieties. Photo / Supplied

Plant and Food Research new cultivar innovation general manager Zac Hanley said the aim was to find new varieties that were better than Hayward Green and G3 SunGold.

"We are really ruthless."

Out of the 10,000 cultivars, they will whittle it to about 100, a process that takes five years. Those 100 are taken to different Plant and Food Research areas around the country, including Te Puke, and grown on a small scale for another five years.

"Only the best of the best [are selected] and not even one cultivar per year will be put forward for trial with real growers," Hanley said.

"There were a few red options because we didn't want to put everything on one possibility, so there is some comparison work going on.

"Zespri will look at how it's behaving with growers. Every year growers get better at producing it, and they will look at how they will ship it.

"It might need to be shipped quicker or at a cooler temperature and... testing in different markets.

"They will gather all that information and then make the decision.

"But ultimately it's Zespri say, and if they say the industry is ready for that, we go for it."

Zespri chief grower and alliances officer David Courtney says red kiwifruit could be a game-changer. Photo / File
Zespri chief grower and alliances officer David Courtney says red kiwifruit could be a game-changer. Photo / File

Zespri chief grower and alliance officer Dave Courtney said red kiwifruit had the potential to bring in even more consumers than gold.

He said it was too early to predict, but it could be a "game-changer".

Following Psa "we actually almost had to restart our red programme again as we had a number in our trials, but Psa was particularly harsh on those varieties".

"The feedback we are getting domestically has been really good. The taste is fantastic, and when we have done trials in Singapore, they were encouraging."

Courtney said Zespri would be releasing a red variety at some point.

But from a full production point of view, that was years away.

"There is an expectation when we release varieties to the industry that we have done enough homework to give a good view or understanding of risks to growers so they can make informed decisions. We have a high bar to cross."

Zespri chief innovation and sustainability officer Carol Ward says Zespri was trialling new red and green varieties. Photo / Supplied
Zespri chief innovation and sustainability officer Carol Ward says Zespri was trialling new red and green varieties. Photo / Supplied

Zespri chief innovation and sustainability officer Carol Ward said a promising selection of reds and a new green kiwifruit was in pre-commercial trials at the moment.

"Our customers are really excited to see new, great-tasting and healthy and varieties that will help us grow the kiwifruit category around the world.

"They taste great and the early indications are very positive but we also have to work through issues like their storability, considering they have to get from orchard here to overseas markets and into fruit bowls around the world."