According to kiwifruit specialist firm China Shenshan Orchard Holdings (China Shenshan), China is the world’s largest kiwifruit-consuming country at 2.2 million tonnes, or 52% of total volume consumed, but demand is continuing to grow.
“China’s kiwifruit consumption far exceeds the figures recorded by the second-largest global consumer which is Italy at 337,000 tonnes – we outnumber them by sevenfold,” China Shenshan Executive Director David Zhao told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“Our kiwifruits are sold exclusively in China, and over the past three years we have seen a rapid rise in volumes sold here – in FY2017 we sold 1,380 tons, in FY2018 this was 1,664 tons, and in FY2019 this took a huge leap to 2,844 tons sold. Net profits of the kiwifruit business also rose from CNY19.5mn (US$3mn) in FY2017 to CNY25.3 (US$3.9mn) in FY2018, then rose sharply to CNY53.4mn (US$8.2mn)in FY2019.
“[So it is clear] that demand is on the rise, and the company is very confident in the kiwifruit market expansion here, [so much so] that earlier this year we moved to become a pure-play kiwifruit producer.”
Previously, the firm was known as Dukang Distillers as it had a main business making and selling baijiu. In July 2021, the firm changed its name to China Shenshan, disposed of its baijiu business and is now focusing its operations fully on the kiwifruit sector.
“Kiwifruits are commonly known as Chinese gooseberry or monkey peach in China, and is well-known for being high in Vitamin C and dietary fibre as well as other health benefits,” said Zhao.
“Chinese consumers today are becoming more and more health-conscious, so the kiwifruit’s tart flavour, low calorie count and [unique] texture will appeal [to them as] a delicious and healthy option for snacking, sides, or a unique dessert.
“The main consumer demographic that kiwifruit appeals to are those looking for premium and healthier fruit options – another big driver here is the rising consumer income of these consumers [who are willing to pay more] for premium-quality products.”
To take the premiumisation a step further, China Shenshan has also moved to certify part of its kiwifruit orchards as organic, hoping to appeal even more to consumers looking for healthy options.
“In China, having orchards organic-certified requires undergoing a very rigorous process to comply with requirements [but we have successfully done this],” said Zhao.
“We have nine orchards in total, three of which have organic certification and kiwifruits planted in these three orchards are labelled and sold as organic-certified.”
The firm sells both green and gold kiwifruit varieties, and has set aside 100 mu (6.67 hectares) of orchard space for kiwifruit research to develop new kiwifruit variants.
“We have our own R&D department to develop our own proprietary range of premium kiwifruit breeds, and are also collaborating with the Hubei Academy of Agricultural Sciences on kiwifruit research,” said Zhao.
The firm’s R&D focus is currently higher up the supply chain in kiwifruit cultivation, but lower down the chain, kiwifruit is also gaining popularity as a packaged snack product and as a flavour.
One of the most popular types of kiwifruit snack product formats is as packaged dried slices, such as those sold by PepsiCo-owned Baicaowei – fresh kiwifruit needs to be refrigerated and can last no more than a few weeks, but dried kiwifruit slices have a shelf life of up to 12 months.
“[We use] kiwifruits from the ‘hometown of kiwifruit in China’ which is in Shaanxi – these are picked when they are 80% ripe have a delectable aroma and even more refined taste and processed within seven days to ensure freshness,” said the firm.
“The product is dried at a low temperature to preserve as much of the original nutrients such as vitamins and fibre as possible.”
Kiwifruit has also been used by dairy giant Yili as a flavouring for one of its most popular products, the Ambrosial Greek yoghurt. Paired with grapes to counter the tartness, this kiwifruit-grape flavour won Yili the International Taste Institute’s Superior Taste Award in 2020.
“[Products and flavours such as these] were developed based on Yili’s end-to-end big data-based intelligence insight platform which captures new consumer needs and trends through Natural Language Processing (NIP), predicts product flavors and nutritional functions that may be popular in the future,” Yili Assistant President Dr Yun Zhanyou told us.
“This follows feedback from different people in different regions in real time, thereby helping us optimize product innovation and service quality.”