Red kiwifruit has attracted attention at the world's leading trade fair for produce, fruit marketing company Turners & Growers says.
The red kiwifruit, a cultivar of the Chinese hong yang variety, attracted crowds to sample it at Fruit Logistica, held earlier this month in Berlin.
Turners & Growers managing director Jeff Wesley said the striking flesh colour, exotic flavour and creamy texture offered potential for growing the kiwifruit category similar to the way Zespri's gold cultivar had performed.
The potential size of the market for the red cultivar was similar to that for gold, which earned over $250 million annually, he said.
The first commercial shipment of the Enza-branded red kiwifruit to Europe in October was quickly sold out at prices 17% above gold kiwifruit in that market, he said.
"Ultimately we see the market potential...matching the earning power of gold for New Zealand growers."
The red kiwifruit on show in Berlin was harvested in Sichuan, China, in late August and early September and was still in excellent condition five months later, he said.
Turners & Growers was propagating red kiwifruit plants at Kerikeri and will have the variety ready for grafting in New Zealand in next year.
End monopoly call
The company has called on the government to strip Zespri Group of its monopoly status, but growers have expressed concern that multiple exporters would undercut each other in global markets.
Instead, Zespri provides collaborative programmes for marketing fruit from other companies.
Tony Gibbs, local head of Guinness Peat Group, which owns 66% of T&G, has argued that Zespri's single-desk exports beyond Australasia potentially constrains opportunities for other kiwifruit growers.
To export the red kiwifruit from New Zealand, T&G would need a collaborative agreement with Zespri. The company needs to decide this year on a predominant growing region for the cultivar, but has said Zespri's control of exports means it must investigate other Southern Hemisphere sites.
Currently the Zespri brand markets green, gold and organic fruit and is believed to be close to releasing new green and gold varieties. Although a red variety is being research by Plant & Food Research, scientists say it does not yet meet Zespri's high quality and production standards.
The government last year announced a $37 million cash injection by growers and taxpayers into accelerating the development of novel cultivars of kiwifruit.
Zespri innovation leader Bryan Parkes said the grower-owned company had 50,000 potential new cultivars at the seedlings stage, more than 50 cultivars in clonal trials, and four cultivars in pre-commercial block trials, but the key issue was the quality of the cultivars.
The major factor driving the timing of releases was the time it took to understand the commercial potential of a new cultivar, with stages of testing.
The first stage, clonal trials, put a selection into up to seven sites throughout New Zealand where it was assessed for up to four years.
New cultivars that showed significant commercial potential at this stage were placed into pre-commercial block trials which may take up to three years to evaluate.
Risks also assessed included the ability of the cultivar to perform in a range of climates, susceptibility to pests and disease, and the consistency of its yield and fruit quality.
To skip such testing and commercialise directly would create a high chance of market failure, according to Mr Parkes.
International supermarkets wanted exciting, new varieties that would expand shelf space for the fruit in the big supermarkets, he said.