Increasingly savvy Chinese consumers and significant market investment have helped Zespri win both the supreme China business award and exporter of the year at the HSBC New Zealand-China Trade Association business awards.
The kiwifruit marketing giant has been exporting fruit to China for over a decade but the past three seasons have seen sales volumes more than double, with sales of more than $400 million last year.
Zespri chief operating officer Simon Limmer says signing e-commerce and Importer of Record agreements, along with moves to work more closely with larger, quality-focused retail customers, have been key factors to sustain that growth.
“We’re incredibly proud of these awards and we’re delighted we can go back to our growers and tell them our sales strategy in China is thriving,” say Mr Limmer. “Our forecasts this season suggest China could overtake Japan as our biggest market for kiwifruit and the potential for further growth is extraordinary but none of this could have been achieved without a lot of hard work and strong vision.”
The NZCTA awards have been running since 2004, with Zespri taking out both the HSBC Supreme China Business Award from all six categories of awards, and the NZTE Excellence in Export or Import prize from a quality field of contenders including Fonterra, GMP Pharmaceuticals Limited, NIG Nutritionals Limited and OJI Fibre Solutions.
Although the Zespri brand is the most-recognised fruit brand in the cities where its fruit is sold, Zespri is expanding distribution into more tier 2 cities, opening a regional office in Beijing and launching regional representation in Guangzhou, Xian and Chongqing. Zespri now employs over 50 staff in China to support that growth.
The company has invested heavily in ecommerce, with China on track to become the world’s largest ecommerce market, as well as working more closely with key retailers. Last year, online distributor Fruitday became the first ecommerce retailer to buy directly from Zespri, while JD.com recently set up a flagship store for Zespri Kiwifruit to serve its 225 million consumers.
Mr Limmer says becoming the Importer of Record in China had also made a huge difference to Zespri’s business, mirroring the model used in Japan and major European markets.
“It gives us more flexibility and responsiveness in China and lets us develop those connections with retailers and online consumers.”
Zespri is also looking into sourcing premium quality kiwifruit from China with trials in their second year in Shaanxi Province, which could provide 12-month supply to Asian markets in the NZ offseason. By supporting the Chinese kiwifruit industry and partnering with Chinese businesses and government, Zespri has made huge strides to establish a sustainable, long-term business.