The growth comes despite a backdrop of generally low fruit consumption and a declining population in Japan, and more recently the supply challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak.
Maiko Kurita, Zespri’s brand manager told FoodNavigator-Asia: “Covid-19 has certainly been challenging and while it’s early in the season, we’re encouraged by the strong demand signals we’re seeing in Japan.”
Japan is Zespri’s second largest market after China. Last year, the firm sold 100,000 tonnes in Japan.
As of 30 April, the company had shipped 1.4 million trays of kiwifruits (4,900 tonnes) to Japan.
According to Kurita, consumers in Japan generally eat fruit for pleasure rather than health.
“Zespri research shows that once consumers understand the health benefits, they consume more fruit. Our Zespri kiwifruits are rich in vitamin C, and we believe consumer demand continue to increase in the future.”
In Japan, consumers can purchase Zespri kiwifruit at supermarkets, as well as some convenience stores and e-commerce sites. According to Kurita, the e-commerce channel for fresh products was still limited in Japan.
Zespri is currently carrying out a campaign to deliver free kiwifruits to its customers in Japan.
“We wanted to express our gratitude to all of our Japanese supermarkets, fruit and vegetable stores and their staff who continued to open their stores under such difficult circumstances.
“To do this, we asked our Zespri consumers to send us a Tweet with the name of their chosen supermarket or store, and we pledged to deliver a case of Zespri SunGold Kiwifruit to them. We received over 1,000 Tweets from consumers, who wanted to support staff but didn’t have the opportunity to express their appreciation personally,” Kurita told us.
On top of exports from New Zealand, Zespri also has 300 growers in Japan which contribute to domestic distribution, albeit at a limited production volume.
In an official statement to the industry, Zespri wrote: “We’re still watching the COVID-19 situation develop in Japan with cases still increasing each day, which could lead to action there to prevent further spread.”
Last month, Japan entered a month-long state of emergency, which had since been extended to the end of May.