Wednesday, 03 July 2024 10:55

Zespri CEO's final good news story

Written by  Peter Burke
Departing Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson. Departing Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson.

Departing Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson had some good news for the country's kiwifruit growers just days before he left the company to take up a new role with the giant berry fruit grower Driscoll in the US.

Mathieson says in the coming 2024-25 season the NZ kiwifruit industry is on track to produce its largest ever crop - 197 million trays worth $4.5 billion in global sales. He says the return per hectare for all types of kiwifruit is up on last season.

He says there's been a nice early start to the season and many growers who have produced fruit early have been rewarded for this.

He told Rural News that the season has started well in all the major markets across Asia and the Pacific with very strong demand coming out of Japan and Korea as well as China and Europe. He says that sales for Green SunGold and Organic have been really strong.

"In Europe, the situation has been helped by the NZ/EU FTA coming into effect which has seen $46 million dollars in tariffs wiped off our exports there. This is a very positive outcome for our growers," he says.

In terms of China, Mathieson says Zespri has worked very hard to build loyalty with consumers and this is working, despite the challenging economic times that country is going through.

The present situation is more difficult than in previous years but he adds that consumers there want Zespri-branded kiwifruit in their fruit bowls. Mathieson says the Chinese are very health conscious and want foods that meet this need.

"So with this ongoing demand, we are able to tell our story about the high nutritional value of our kiwifruit and its taste attribute to more and more consumers. That is allowing us to get some good shelf space at supermarkets and ensuring our customers are seeing value in what we are offering. So we are in a good position, despite a pretty challenging situation," he says.

In Europe and in other jurisdictions, Zespri has been working to ensure that its fruit meets the requirements of new legislation around environmental issues - for example, making sure that its crops are not grown on land that has been deforested.

Dan Mathieson says they are working on a green shipping route and looking at new technologies with shipping partners to remove carbon emissions from the supply chain.

He says in respect of shipping costs, these have stayed at levels that prevailed during the height of the Covid pandemic. But he says the good news is that there appears to be extra shipping capacity and that they are not suffering from the delays they did four years ago.

Going to California

In the next few weeks, Dan Mathieson and his family will set sail for California where he will take up the role as President for the Americas with the giant US producer of berry fruits - Driscoll's.

This is a huge fourth generation California-based company that grows about 30,000ha of berries planted worldwide in 22 different countries and exports to around 40 nations.

In his new role, Mathieson says he'll havr responsibility for Driscoll's operations in the USA, Canada and Mexico, including production of the crops and sales and marketing.

"So as the president of the Americas, that will be everything from the type of berries our growers produce through to how we sell, market  and deliver sustainable value back to our company and grower partners," he says.

Mathieson has been with Zespri for 21 years in various roles and says the company will be well served by the new CEO Jason Te Brake, who he describes as an outstanding person and leader with a great record in driving change across the supply chain. He says Jason has also played a huge role in improving fruit quality.

Mathieson says he and his family are excited about going to California and the role he's been appointed to. He says his move to Driscoll's came about because of his contacts worldwide in the fruit industry, and Driscoll's reached out to him to see if he would be interested.

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