June 15, 2009

Have some kiwi

NZ biz group wants kiwi promoted in RP
April 6, 2009

ZESPRI International (Asia) Ltd. is allocating 20 percent of its marketing budget for Southeast Asia to push the sales of more kiwi fruits in the Philippines.

In an interview with select reporters on Tuesday, Daniel Mathieson, market manager for Southeast Asia, said the largest chunk of the Philippine budget is allocated to promoting the fruit at the supermarket level.

While he declined to reveal the actual budget figure, he said, “We’re committed to growing our market here.” Initial efforts to market the Zespri kiwi brand yielded a 200-percent jump in sales in the Philippines in 2008, equivalent to 3.3 million pieces. “We’re hoping to double that this year,” Mathieson said, as he cites kiwi becoming “part of the emerging Filipino diet.”

Being a new market, the Philippines accounts for about 4 percent of the Zespri’s total sales in Southeast Asia. “So we see a lot of growth potential for us here,” he said. Zespri, which is the marketing organization owned by the kiwi growers in New Zealand, sells about $1 billion worth of kiwi globally. Its largest market are Japan, Spain and Germany, while in Southeast Asia, representing 1.5 percent of total global sales, its largest markets are Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.

Other than New Zealand, China also grows kiwi fruits in Asia and are called gooseberry. But Mathieson said even China represents a huge growing market for Zespri because “the Chinese found that the taste [of the New Zealand varieties] more superior.”

In the Philippines, about 90 percent of the kiwi fruit sold in the supermarkets are the gold variety, which has a pointed tip. The rest is the green variety which has a round body. The local supermarkets being eyed in Zespri’s marketing campaign are Landmark, SM, and Rustan’s.

Each kiwi fruit costs about P19 at retail, which is more expensive than apples or oranges, the common imported fruits available in the local supermarkets. But Mathieson said his organization’s campaign is trying to push the health and nutritional aspects of the kiwi fruit which will hopefully appeal to the growing numbers of health-conscious Filipinos. “It’s more a value proposition because of its nutritional content,” he stressed.

Nutritionist Sanirose Orbeta, who was present at Zespri’s launch at The Stock Market, a restaurant along Bonifacio High Street in Taguig on Tuesday, said the kiwi “is a naturally high source of vitamins, provides excellent mineral balance, high in anti-oxidants, and full of phytonutrients for good health.”

Citing several nutrition studies, she added the kiwi is “a leading source of vitamin C” providing 108.9 mg compared with an orange (53.2 mg), mango (27.7 mg), pineapple (16.9 mg.), banana (8.7 mg.), and an apple (4.6 mg.). Kiwi is also a leading source of folate, vitamin E, and is comparable with the above-mentioned fruits in terms of fiber source.

Diabetics can also take heart to the fact that kiwi has a low glycemic index of 48.5 points (gold variety), compared with the mango (55), banana (58), papaya (60) and pineapple (66).

As part of Zespri’s marketing effort, The Stock Market will be offering kiwi-based dishes to the public for two weeks beginning on June 15.

Mathieson said Zespri’s kiwis are primarily imported by two companies in the Philippines, Elite Fruit Marketing Inc. and Beauchamp.

In a separate interview, Kingson Chan, manager of Elite Fruit, also outlined the massive potential of kiwi fruit sales in the country. “We imported 30,000 crates last year and we’re doubling the imports this year.”

He said the supermarkets are still Elite’s biggest customers, accounting for 80 percent of company sales, followed by restaurants and hotels at 10 percent, and wholesalers at 10 percent. Elite Fruit also imports apples from China and grapes from Chile and the US. The company is among the top five fruit importers in the Philippines.

At present, the kiwi fruit is levied a 7-percent tariff in the Philippines, but with the recently-signed Asean free- trade agreement (FTA) with New Zealand, Mathieson said he sees local retail prices of the kiwi dropping which will help further boost their sales. “This will benefit both our growers and the Filipino consumers.”

Under the Asean-Australia-New Zealand FTA, the tariff on fresh edible kiwi fruit is scheduled to be reduced to 5 percent this year, 3 percent in 2010, and zero by 2011.

(My story was originally pulished in the BusinessMirror, April 6, 2009.)


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