Zespri's Sarah Deaton Discusses SunGold Variety and U.S. Retail Programs
NEWPORT BEACH, CA - I remember the first time I had a kiwifruit—as a skeptical kid highly suspicious of the strange fruit my dad was presenting to me. However, that first tangy, sweet bite delighted me and I've been hooked for life.
These days, kiwifruit is exploding—lining up with several consumer trends towards experimentation with new flavors and an eye towards health. Sarah Deaton, Marketing Manager, North America, of Zespri, joined me to discuss how the grown-for-flavor brand and a leading shipper of kiwifruit in New Zealand is breaking into the U.S. market with its new SunGold variety, innovative retailer program, and consumer marketing campaigns.
"SunGold Kiwifruit is going to change the kiwifruit category," Sarah tells me. "From our focus groups, consumers tell us biting into a SunGold is remniscent of a warm sunny day. It has a sweet tropical flavor, like a cross between a mango and a strawberry. Consumers can't get enough!"
The new yellow, smooth-skinned variety is a product of the companies natural cross-breeding program, and is shaking things up at retail. As Sarah tells me, the company grows for taste to encourage consumption, implementing strict standards so that only the finest kiwifruit is shipped. The company is excited to be able to offer different tasty varieties, like the SunGold, for consumers as the company continues penetrating the U.S. market.
The New Zealand-based company has focused its international vision on the U.S. shores after opening up its Newport Beach, CA, office in 2016. This year, the company is set for a strong season from May through November, doubling growth over last year.
"The fruit and vines are reaching full maturity, and the fruit is exceeding our high taste standards. Our growers are incredibly passionate about producing the best tasting fruit, implementing protocols, and constantly perfecting their craft," Sarah shares. "Everything is tracking well."
For the company's U.S. retail partners, Zespri has devised a comprehensive Regional Marketing Manager program to help launch into the market. These regionally based representatives work hands-on with customers to help build a personalized kiwifruit category program, which you can learn more about here.
One such representative, Susan Noritake, Market Development Manager – West, shares this about the program: "Now is the perfect time to hop on the kiwifruit trend and get behind the driver of that growth, SunGold Kiwifruit. We’re inviting retailers to 'Celebrate the SunGold' through custom marketing programs designed to entice shoppers to try this amazing piece of fruit because we know once they do, they will come back for more.”
Beyond the retail support program, Sarah tells me that Zespri has exciting plans as the company's reach continues to take hold, with an upcoming integrated consumer campaign on deck. Zespri will be targeting certain markets with an extensive digital and social media campaign designed to bring joy, optimism, and excitement to consumers this season.
“Kiwifruit is delicious, nutritious, and easy-to-eat, and it’s our goal to increase consumption through innovative campaigns that highlight the superior taste and enjoyment eating Zespri Kiwifruit brings. Besides the amazing taste, a serving of kiwifruit has three times the vitamin C of an orange, and a slew of other health benefits we want to pass on to the consumer,” Sarah shares about the upcoming promotions.
If Zespri's long past is any indication, the company's future stateside looks to be bright and the brand will continue spreading the joy of kiwifruit for years to come.