By Leandro Mingoti
Senior Consultant at Stellar

For several years Stellar has been working with some of the world’s largest kiwifruit companies. So, we have got to know a bit more about the kiwifruit industry. It has been a remarkable learning curve. Stellar has grown to learn many interesting facts that we think are worth sharing. So here you go.

Kiwifruit had a different name

Kiwifruit is not native to New Zealand. Shocking as that may be to hear, but Kiwifruit was first introduced into New Zealanders in 1904. Back then the fruit was known as “Yang Tao” or in its colloquial Anglicised form the “Chinese Gooseberry”.

Exporting the fruit from New Zealand to the United States only started in the 1950s. With the Cold War running in the background and the name “Chinese Gooseberry” potentially being wrongly associated with communism, the name “Kiwifruit” was devised by proud Kiwis who wanted to name the fruit in recognition of New Zealand’s national symbol, the brown-feathered Kiwi bird.

International competition and industry redesign

In the 1960s and the 1970s there was a massive amount of growth in the kiwifruit trading markets, however by the 1980s New Zealand kiwifruit growers faced a crisis in due to an oversupply. Also, in the 1980s, the New Zealand dollar was rising, and the banks offered unfavourable interest and foreign exchange rates. This created a perfect storm of poor trading conditions with the price of kiwifruit in the international market hitting an all-time low. This turmoil resulted in around 18 to 20% of all New Zealand growers left the kiwifruit industry.

So, in the 1990s, the NZ kiwifruit industry redesigned itself by establishing a single entity to export all New Zealand kiwifruit and to improve the overall market positioning. This was the origin of Zespri International Limited. A large co-operative of New Zealand kiwifruit growers decided they could do better together, leading to the creation of Zespri in 1997.

More interesting facts about the industry

  • Kiwifruit export revenue represents around 32% of New Zealand’s total horticultural export revenue
  • There are approximately 2600 kiwifruit growers and 2900 registered orchards in New Zealand
  • Around 81% of New Zealand-grown kiwifruit comes from the Bay of Plenty region
  • Zespri International Limited is the world’s largest marketer of kiwifruit, selling into more than 53 countries and managing around 30% of the global volume
  • The kiwifruit industry is undoubtedly a story of success and resilience in New Zealand