Zespri (BioGro No. 1314)
Kiwifruit pioneer Zespri made its first certified organic shipment of kiwifruit to Europe in 1991. It has since become known as a global marketing organisation with a commitment to organics. Owned by its growers, Zespri markets 3.6 million trays of organic kiwifruit annually with organic sales revenue of NZD51.5 million in 2012. Based in Mount Maunganui, the heart of New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry, it has 120 growers of Zespri Organic Green and Gold Kiwifruit around New Zealand with the annual crop being sold domestically and in Europe, Asia and North America. Its first growers became certified-organic in the late 1980’s to gain a point of difference and to meet emerging demand. Soon after becoming certified by BioGro, sales by Zespri were made to Japan, it’s no.1 market for organics. Glen Arrowsmith, Zespri’s Global Marketing Manager – Organic, explains why Zespri’s relationship with BioGro is fundamental to its success: philosophically, practically and commercially.
Organic principles are really important to our customers (markets) and consumers who choose to purchase our organic kiwifruit. The fundamental point of difference is the production methods our organic growers use with only natural methods of nutrition and crop protection to guarantee a chemical-free and residue-free product. Many of our wholesale and retail customers are very passionate about organics and travel across the world from countries such as Japan, the USA, Germany, France and China to meet our organic growers and understand more about the organic production system and principles.
As an exporter and marketer, Zespri is certified by BioGro. Our growers have been with BioGro since the start and have collectively decided to maintain their certification solely with BioGro.
Being BioGro certified counts for a lot. It gives us and our growers complete access to international markets.
The idea of being certified organic was first proposed by our passionate growers who had decided to be organic. They approached Zespri to see what was possible. We picked up on their vision and looked for market opportunities to make it a reality.
Organic kiwifruit growers and packers are pretty much in control of their own category and decision making so we are led by their needs - it’s our job to support them. We have always had the view that it makes more economic and practical sense to be certified by one certifier (not 2). We’re operating in a complex world of markets with plenty of different access required by each, so we’re constantly looking at ways to simplify the way we operate.
Being BioGro certified enables us to have cost effective pathways to markets. Its programmes have real integrity, give us flexibility and offer practical solutions to various challenges that come up along the way.
For example labelling – we can export to Japan directly through BioGro which means we can brand (with Zespri stickers) our fruit in NZ before it’s exported. If we were certified to OOAP we’d need to export the fruit without stickers then add them in Japan (an extra step and risk we’d rather not take). Labelling requirements can limit our flexibility e.g. if we pack a product in one rather than several different ways we have the option to export our product anywhere, wherever the demand is.
It’s primarily about BioGro’s integrity but that’s got to be balanced with the practical and commercial requirements of exporting. We work with them for the strategic level of engagement and dialogue they have with us and our growers. This means we can come up with strategies together (on behalf of our growers and customers). It’s a professional organisation willing to get involved. Having a real focus on organics and the ability to respond to our commercial and pragmatic challenges are really important.
Being audited by BioGro annually is a good opportunity to reflect on where things are at and to review any issues that have come up throughout the year. Being certified means we can extend our product offering to include organic products and have systems in place to ensure there is genuine integrity across our supply chain as well as processes to manage any issues that arise.
Our biggest challenge is meeting the various requirements of organic markets and the complexity of certification pathways and rules with the practicalities of producing and marketing organic products. We work closely with BioGro and MPI to ensure a good flow of information and that practical and cost effective pathways to markets are achieved.
With BioGro on our team we plan to continue growing our sales and expanding our range of certified organic products.