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Europeans Turn to Kiwifruit for Safe Food

March 7, 2006

Europeans Turn to Kiwifruit for Safe Food

Europeans are increasingly turning to “safe” foods like kiwifruit to improve their health and avoid the many food-related problems emerging around the world, according to two major European fruit and vegetable distributors visiting New Zealand this week.

Board director of Dutch company The Greenery, Jan Van den Heuvel accompanied by the General Manager and General Manager and General Import Director Hans Van den Heuvel, and Spanish company EUROBANAN director Raymon Rey have been visiting New Zealand as guests of ZESPRI International Ltd, looking at kiwifruit orchards and processes.

Together with ZESPRI they manage large players in the European produce market, with The Greenery supplying fruit and vegetables to supermarket chains in Europe, North America and the Far East 12 months of the year.

The family-owned Angel Rey company has been in business for more than 100 years and was the first company to import and distribute fruit and vegetables grown outside Spain. It owns seven state of the art distribution centres and three other companies throughout Spain and Portugal, producing tropical fruits, vegetables, stone fruit, prepared salads, pre-cooked meals and bananas.

Mr Rey said Spaniards ate far more than 100,000 tonnes of kiwifruit which was popular because of the amount of promotion given to its health and nutrition properties.

“Spain is the number one producer of oranges but we know that kiwifruit has many times the amount of Vitamin C as an orange, so people like it not just because it has a good flavour.”

He said Europeans were also getting the “Five plus a day” fruit and vegetable promotion and people were keen to go back to basics and eat less fast food.

“It is important that we focus on the values of kiwifruit. This is good for people and also good for the economy, so we feel we are doing something for society, not just our business. People are worried about what to eat after all the food scandals, toxins and now bird flu, and we can assure them of safe food. After all, we are essentially vegetarians, not carnivores.”

Mr Van den Heuvel said people now understood more about health issues and were encouraged to eat more fruit and vegetables. The Greenery is producer-owned by members of the horticulture co-operative Voedings Tuinbouw Nederland (VTN). They also supply wholesalers, catering companies and industrial processing companies.

“Over the last 10 years the consumption of fruit and vegetables has increased, but over the last couple of years there has been a huge increase in the amount of fruit in the European market at very cheap prices. It is remarkable that in this atmosphere the market for ZESPRI kiwifruit has continued to grow and we have retained premium pricing in the market.

“People treat it almost as a separate category – they may not buy melon or peaches but they continue to buy ZESPRITM Kiwifruit even though there have been dramatic drops in stone fruit prices over the last couple of years. Kiwifruit sales have been affected little, if at all, even though they might be five times the price.”

He said consumers would no longer accept poor quality and insisted on a 100 percent guarantee of good quality and safety.

“Those who won’t be able to do this will be lost to the market, but ZESPRI’s quality controls enable it to keep its premium. It would be pure suicide not to do this.”

He said kiwifruit was an increasing segment of the fruit market, especially in GOLD and any new varieties such as red would be welcomed. The sales of ZESPRITM GREEN kiwifruit had risen 25 percent in the last two years and the company was likely to buy more than six million trays (both ZESPRITM GREEN and ZESPRITM GOLD) in the next season.

ENDS

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