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Zespri reaps benefits of dairy partnership

NZN 17/05/2017 Rebecca Howard

The government's primary growth partnership geared toward driving change in the dairy sector had an unlikely partner: kiwifruit export marketing body Zespri International.

The $170 million innovation investment involving the Ministry for Primary Industries and commercial partners, including DairyNZ and Fonterra, is in its seventh and final year.

The partnership focused on creating new products, lifting productivity, improving environmental protection and building capability, and includes a raft of projects aimed at boosting the economy by $2.7 billion a year by 2020.

Fonterra programme manager Andrew Fletcher said the connection between work that Fonterra carried out as part of the PGP and Zespri "comes back to the way we experience food. It's not just taste that drives our liking, but a big part of it is structure," he said at a briefing in Wellington.

Food structure science was critical to work at Fonterra in its bid to create things like cream that no longer had to be refrigerated in order to whip properly as well as mozzarella cheese, and Mr Fletcher noted kiwifruit has a real "Goldilocks spot" - neither too firm nor too soft.

Kylie Phillips, innovation leader at Zespri, said there have been multiple benefits to consumers, growers and the company itself.

Zespri is currently a $2b industry and aims to be a $4.5b industry by 2025 and ''innovation will fuel that next $2.5b growth," she said.

"The research conducted as part of this PGP programme will help us achieve that goal," she said.

The biological variability of the fruit is "quite an issue for us," in particular when it comes to storage, she said.

The PGP research has made it possible to progress toward being able to predict which kiwifruit can be kept longer in cool storage, something critical given that the fruit is shipped to markets across the globe.

The end result is that Zespri has reduced fruit quality costs by managing fruit inventory as it can sell some fruit early if it knows it won't store as well.

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