Kiwifruit marketers point to nutritional content as asset

In an age in which so-called “superfoods” have a sales advantage, kiwifruit fits right in with consumer needs, marketing agents say.

“Kiwifruit is getting more and more popular all the time, and the health attributes are one of the main things everybody pushes, as far as trying to get people to eat more,” said Donna Fagundes, sales manager with Hanford, Calif.-based Cal Harvest Marketing Inc.

“It tastes good and it’s pretty. There are all sorts of ways to merchandise it. You just cut the top off with a knife and spoon it like it’s own little private cup.”

The fruit’s heavy vitamin C content is a major asset, said Karen Brux, general manager of Redwood City, Calif.-based Zespri North America, a branch of Mt. Maunganui, New Zealand-based kiwifruit grower-shipper Zespri International Ltd.

“A serving of green kiwifruit has 200% of the daily requirement vitamin C; a serving of gold has over 300%,” she said.

A challenge is getting that information to consumers, particularly in the U.S., where sales tend to lag behind other fruits, said Mike Hatcher, salesman with Dinuba, Calif.-based Fruit Patch Sales LLC.

“There is POS (point-of-sale) material out there and available for retailers, but obviously, kiwifruit isn’t a top 10 commodity,” Hatcher said. “The (California Kiwifruit) Commission has put out a lot of information on that. It has four times the nutrition vitamin. C. There’s definitely been a health push on kiwi in the media.”

The word on the nutritional value of kiwifruit is getting around, if slowly, said Michael Ohki, owner of Winton, Calif.-based Ohki Farms.

“They have done some magazine advertising, some health messages,” Ohki said. “They’ve been trying to do a lot of promotion in health magazines since kiwis are very high in vitamins.”

The information available to consumers about the product is compelling, said Tom Schultz, who heads up District 3 of the commission and serves as president of Marysville, Calif.-based Chase National Kiwi Farms.

“I think we’re very fortunate that, even though we don’t have a huge budget for promotions expense, we do have a great story to tell,” he said. “With the great exposure we’ve had on nutritional values through research, the consumer sees it as a high vitamin C fruit with high antioxidant content, and that does sell the fruit for us.”

Kurt Cappelluti, sales manager with Fresno, Calif.-based Stellar Distributing, said the fruit’s nutritional content represents a key sales opportunity, especially for younger consumers.

“As far as vitamin C and the nutritional density of the fruit, it’s really healthy — one of the healthiest pieces of fruit out there,” he said. “I bring kids kiwi and they love it.”

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