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U.S.: Sun Pacific to triple kiwifruit supply in three years


California-based company Sun Pacific aims to mimic its success in Cuties easy peelers with a new kiwifruit brand called ‘Mighties’, offering pre-ripened fruit in clamshells complete with a spife for cutting and scooping. Mighties

The new concept with a happy cartoon character takes the place of the company’s previous Ripe & Easy marketing initiative, which featured a child on the packaging eating a kiwifruit.

The move is emblematic of a need to prop up demand to support higher production coming on-line in the coming years. Speaking with during the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit in Anaheim, Sun Pacific vice president of marketing Victoria Nuevo-Celeste said the company owned 40% of its supply.

“In three years we’re actually going to triple our supply, and for this California season everything is looking great,” she said.

“We made a pretty big investment and started planting vines about three years ago, so the yield will come two years from now.”

She said kiwifruit was challenging for many consumers and needed to be made more accessible.

“When you see it in the supermarket it’s kind of piled up – a little mountain in the exotic area,” she said.

“So what we’re trying to do with Mighties is make it really accessible for kids, but it’s really mainly for moms to be attracted to it and bring it into the household.

“Mighties have more potassium than a banana, more Vitamin C than an orange, more Vitamin E and K than an avocado and more fiber than a bowl of cereal if you’re comparing servings.”

She said the company would be packing the California kiwifruit on Nov. 3.

“So probably by the second week of November you’ll see it everywhere,” she said.

“In addition to all the nutrition of kiwifruit, it’s so versatile. You can do tons of recipes with it or use it a meat tenderizer – you can get a piece of meat that is raw and prior to grilling it you can put slices of kiwifruit on top of it, or a little bit of the juice, wait 20 minutes, and it has an enzyme that breaks down the protein in the meat.

“Also it’s really good as a digestive. After eating a big meal like a steak, a kiwifruit dessert or a kiwifruit on its own will help you digest.”

She added the Mighties deal would be year-round, with counterseasonal supply sourced from Chile.

Cutie meals

A deal with McDonald’s to offer Cuties in the chain’s restaurants around the country is a huge win for Sun Pacific, adding a fourth option in Happy Meals which currently offer french fries, Go-Gurt or apple slices.

“We’re going to be the first whole fruit that goes into McDonald’s happy meals, basically in all restaurants nationally starting in November,” Nuevo-Celeste said.

“McDonald’s is going to support it with a tremendous amount of marketing for moms, kids, print ads, a tremendous amount of social media and PR.”

Prior to speaking with Nuevo-Celeste, Paramount Citrus president David Krause told his company’s Wonderful Halos brand had established a leadership position in mandarins. The Sun Pacific executive acknowledged that technically her competitor had a greater total volume last season, but that was not the entire story.

“Last year if you remember during the clementine season, we were the number one brand. We had 26% higher velocity than our closest competitor, which was Halos,” she said.

“Then the freeze hit in December, so we actually lost 40% of our supply of Murcotts during the spring, so we’re not comparing apples to apples. Paramount actually has more Murcotts than we do.

“We made choices about what we wanted to put into the market in terms of what we thought met the quality spec for Cuties. They put whatever they wanted in the marketplace.”

She said it would be hard to say how the season would have gone in terms of total volume from Paramount or Sun Pacific if the freeze hadn’t happened.

“During the Murcott season they definitely had more Murcotts in the market than we did, but the clementine season was absolutely ours,” she said.

“For us it was a tale of two seasons…they look at it differently. They don’t divide it into two. We really missed a lot of sales we could have had in the second half.

“The demand actually is exceeding the supply that we have, so as long as Halos and Paramount continue to market their brand, and we continue to do it as well, it’s a win-win at the end of the day. It shouldn’t be a fight between the two brands, it’s more about hopefully growing the category.”