In the early going of the 2010 New Zealand kiwifruit export season, importers reported outstanding quality and similar volumes as last year in shipments to North America.

“One point we’re really highlighting is that it seems to be a vintage year for taste,” said Karen Brux, North American marketing representative for Zespri International, Tauranga, New Zealand, the exclusive marketer of New Zealand kiwifruit exported to North America.

In testing, the kiwifruit has had high dry content matter (the solids left when the fruit is dried), Brux said. Higher dry content translates to more flavorful kiwifruit.

 She has no farther to look than her own household to see the difference in quality between 2009 and 2010.

“My 3-year-old hated them last year, and I thought, ‘What a failure I am. I can’t even get my own child to eat kiwifruit,’” she said. “But this year he loves them. We bought some last week, and my kids ate three of them in one day.”

By the week of June 7 the deal was in full swing, Brux said.

“We’ve had arrivals on both coasts, and fruit is moving very smoothly,” she said.

As of the week of June 7, weekly shipments of both greens and golds were similar to last season, Brux said. 

“It’s shaping up to be a good year” for New Zealand kiwifruit, said Tom Richardson, general manager of Wenatchee, Wash.-based Giumarra of Wenatchee. “The flavor profile is one of the best ever.”

Appearance also was good and size profile normal, Richardson said. Giumarra expects its volumes to be similar to last year, he said.

The consistency of the quality of New Zealand fruit throughout the U.S. summer has been a key driver of demand, said Steve Woodyear-Smith, kiwifruit category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.

“There’s a continued understanding of that,” he said. “Consistency is what consumers are looking for.”

Woodyear-Smith reported strong growth in the past three years in sales of New Zealand gold kiwifruit.

“We’ve sold out of the gold early the past three years,” he said.

Still, the overall volume and percentage of golds in the export mix should be similar for Oppenheimer in 2010 compared to previous years, Woodyear-Smith said.

Sales of packaged New Zealand kiwifruit sold in North America continues to grow, Woodyear-Smith said.

Packaged product grew 33% in 2009 and made up 4% of all kiwifruit sales, he said, and sales of packaged kiwifruit are expected to continue to grow.

One-pound clamshells and bags and four-count Earthcycle biodegradable trays are among the more popular packaging options for New Zealand kiwifruit on U.S. retail shelves, Woodyear-Smith said.

Packages increase product visibility, cut down on errors at checkout, provide an educational opportunity and encourage repeat sales, he said.