Restaurant India spoke to Ritesh Bhimani, Market Development Manager, Zespri International Limited, over Kiwi\'s health benefits and market presence and how the company is planning future moves.
Rich quality New Zealand Kiwifruits were recently launched in India in a grand ceremony held at Four Seasons hotel, Worli, Mumbai.
What inspired you to bring Kiwifruit in India?
I feel India is getting healthier with people getting health conscious, they want something healthy. Kiwifruit was our SSP for a long time, but we were looking for the right time to enter the Indian market. The fruit is already being sold in the Indian market since the last four years.
Always looked at as an international fruit, it is taking time to get into the Indian baskets. Initially, getting in the fruit basket was a key challenge because always the basket comprised apples and other fruits and Kiwifruit was way apart. The idea was to get the Kiwifruit noticed on the Indian palette.
What are the health benefits of the fruit?
The fruit is sweeter in taste as well as healthy and that’s the rare combination we are bringing to India. It’s a naturally grown fruit, there are no chemical elements included. There are more than 26 nutrients in one Kiwifruit. The fruit has a natural source of foliate which is beneficial for the growth of a baby during pregnancy. The fruit is very good for diabetics as well. It can be combined with any other fruits.
We have many varieties of Kiwifruit; one is green and may be at a later stage, we would plan for some more varieties. How is the response from Indian consumers?
We Indians look for taste and health benefits and you get a combination of both in this. We have tripled our sales in the past four years. Currently, our annual turnover is of Rs 60 crore and we are planning to touch Rs 300 crore in the next three years.
What is the price of the fruit you have kept for Indian market?
People are worried about pricing, but actually the Kiwifruit is cheaper than most of the fruits. A single piece of Kiwifruit costs just Rs 30 to Rs 40 compared to Rs 250 Kg of Apple which makes up to Rs 50 for an apple.
How Kiwifruit can be preserved in Indian climate?
If the fruit is kept in Indian hot climate 400 to 450 then possibly it will last for one or two days, but if kept in refrigerator, it will last for 2 to 3 days or four days maximum.
What are your branding, marketing and expansion activities?
Around 90 per cent of our fruit is sold to street vendors. We make sure that the fruit is available all over. You go anywhere across India, we are present. Majorly, the fruit is present in Tier I and II cities. In terms of brand marketing, we have a brand Ambassador Kalki Koechlin. Also, we do a lot of recipes, and sampling and tasting at different malls, outlets, and street vendors.
We are trying to expand our base of distributors as we want to have our distributorship across India and then possibly we will look at TVC. We are trying to expand into tier III cities as well. Also, we are planning to tap all the five-star hotels to include breakfast palette or buffet palette. Finally, we want to grow Kiwifruti in the market and we are looking at big numbers.
Personally what was your New Zealand connection?
I used to work with New Zealand consulate before and there we had this company which was looking to expand in the Indian market, so it was really interesting in terms of getting this opportunity for work with Zespri. It’s been four years now working with Zespri and it’s a great honour for me.
Can Kiwifruit be grown in India?
India does grow Kiwifruit in Arunachal Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, but in very small quantity and that is majorly sold in the east and northern part of India.