As a child, Zespri’s new chief executive Dan Mathieson loved green kiwifruit so much he ate it skin and all. He also wanted to be a vet – until he discovered a love and talent for the Japanese language.
His subsequent degree from AUT and fluency in the language took him to Japan where he met his wife Reina and worked in Tokyo for Omron and NEC in corporate communications, international marketing and project management roles.
In 2003 Dan was able to combine both career and his love of kiwifruit when he joined Zespri Japan as a member of its operations team. In September this year he took up the role as company’s new chief executive.
Dan enjoys all kiwifruit, and especially Zespri Hayward Green. Reina and their three children Keanu, 12, Sean, 8, and Lanah, 6, prefer Zespri SunGold for its sweeter taste and the fact it’s always ready to eat.
Dan’s enthusiasm for Zespri kiwifruit is infectious and obvious as he speaks of the nutritional value of the green and gold varieties, the exciting potential of a new red and the growth opportunities the international market place offers.
In his new role leading the company, he’s committed to the goal of doubling Zespri’s global sales to $4.5 billion by 2025. “This is a very achievable target. Kiwifruit makes up just 0.22 per cent of the global fruit basket so there is obviously a huge opportunity for growth.”
Helping achieve that goal is the Zespri board’s decision to release even more licences to grow its varieties. In October the board approved the additional release of 50 hectares a year of licence for Organic SunGold, specifically for greenfield plantings. It intends to release a total of 250 hectares of Organic SunGold over the next five years, subject to annual review.
The board has also announced the allocation of 700 hectares of SunGold licence in 2018, via a Closed Tender Bid.
Zespri chairman Peter McBride says Zespri also intends to extend the release of SunGold licence out to 2022, meaning a total of 3500 hectares to be released over the next five years.
“It is clear from performance in the markets in recent seasons, and from our assessment of future demand that we need to accelerate supply growth of SunGold. The gap to fill between the strong demand outlook and our current trajectory of supply growth presents a significant strategic opportunity.
“Demand forecasts support the release of 700 hectares per year. However, this is subject to an annual review that would consider any potential new risks to our current demand outlook.”
An increasing consumer preference for safe, nutritious fresh food will help fuel that growth in existing markets as well as in emerging markets including North America, South East Asia and India.
Key, says Dan, is the Zespri brand name which is underpinned by “an unrelenting focus on quality. Our strong supplier and customer partnerships provide us with an outstanding opportunity to rapidly increase demand, increase supply and innovate to sustain and grow returns to growers and shareholders”.
The ongoing commitment of New Zealand growers and post-harvest operators to high quality, taste and nutrition standards in the fruit are among the reasons for the international success of Zespri kiwifruit.
However, New Zealand fruit is available for only seven months of the year, which is why kiwifruit is now grown under licence to Zespri, and in accordance with its high-quality standards, in France, Italy, Korea and Japan. Trial plantings are underway in China and North America too.
“Supplying premium-quality fruit all-year round helps us grow kiwifruit consumption around the world and meet the needs of our consumers who want Zespri-quality kiwifruit 12 months of the year. We want to ensure Zespri is the account manager of choice in the international kiwifruit category and by ensuring a year-round supply of consistently high-quality fruit we can achieve that,” says Dan.
“Today Zespri is a truly global brand, among the most recognisable fruit brands in the world and this is something many Kiwis probably don’t realise.
“New Zealand is the heart of Zespri’s kiwifruit production and Zespri’s Singapore office is the heart beat of international sales and marketing.”
It’s for that reason Dan will spent time between the head office at Mount Maunganui and the sales and marketing hub in Singapore.
“I realise the huge importance of working closely with New Zealand growers and industry leaders and I will spend substantial time at Zespri’s head office in Mount Maunganui. A strong and empowered New Zealand executive will also play a key role in maintaining these vital industry relationships.”
Singapore is where Reina and the children live but they already make frequent trips to New Zealand and are well-used to Dan’s busy travel schedules.