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New Zealand cherry producer, Pure Pac Limited, has finalised its second season, with a packout rate of up to 90 percent of first grade fruit.

International and domestic sales manager, Sharon Kirk, said the packout rate represented approximately a 30 percent increase on the Central Otago producer’s inaugural season in 2017/2018. 

Some 270 tonnes were sent to market between December 18, 2018 and February 12, 2019, capturing the pre-Christmas to post-Chinese New Year markets globally and nationally. Pure Pac markets two export brands, Pure Gold and Gold Reserve, and domestic brand, Pure Otago.

Kirk said, according to initial data released by Summerfruit New Zealand, New Zealand’s cherry industry experienced a 40 percent drop in export volume, due to variable pre-season conditions.

“We were forecasting 700 tonnes before a frost in October which reduced the crop and resulted in smaller picking runs but that had no impact on our seasonal span,” Kirk said. 
Exceptional price, size, quality and shelf life

“While the export market was short on volume, demand was strong from start to finish and the exchange rate was favourable. Pure Pac’s price, cherry size, quality and shelf life were exceptional,” she said.

A seasoned horticulturalist with more than 30 years’ experience, Kirk said she had never seen cherries achieve a brix level (natural sugars) of up to 31 as they had during the 2018-2019 season.

“The minimum brix specification is 16. To achieve more than 30 is exceptional. 

“The size of our export cherries was also impressive with most ranging from 30 to 34mm. Size is important in cherries as many customers, especially the Chinese New Year market, seek large cherries for the gift-giving sector. Importantly, big cherries retain sweetness.”
Mrs Kirk said Pure Pac also made inroads into new markets in Asia (specifically India) and Europe.

“Taiwan was our biggest market, closely followed by China and Vietnam. India is emerging as a new and exciting market with huge potential in the celebration market, as is Indonesia. We’re also expanding into northern Europe and the United States of America. 

“Some of our existing markets are extremely discerning yet customer feedback indicates they were happy with our service and our cherries were very well received by consumers.

“Many wrote letters of appreciation thanking us for our quality of fruit and great service and committing to taking more next season. Others were impressed with our branding which they said made them proud to be a customer. As a marketer, it doesn’t get any better.

“Our price is high but we make no apology for that because it is appropriate for premium quality. We fight hard to achieve the best price for our growers.”

As shareholders in Pure Pac’s vertically integrated co-operative, growers reaped the maximum from the value chain, she said.

“Pure Pac growers are invested in the entire cherry supply chain. During the season, two directors, Murray Little and Malcolm Little, accompanied me to China to see our sea freight out-turning. It’s that level of service and attention to detail that our customers appreciate.”

Leading-edge technology and orchard systems

During the season, more than 160 seasonal workers were employed in the orchard with another 60 in the packhouse and several full-time positions created, she said.

The Pure Pac operation has 80 hectares of trees under cultivation with about 50 hectares at producing age. The crop, produced with the latest in orchard management systems and techniques, is expected to reach full mature production by 2023. 

Its state-of-the-art packhouse has the capacity to handle up to 1,200 tonnes a season and is equipped with world-leading technology including a Compac In-Vision grading machine which assess every part of an individual piece of fruit during grading.

Kirk said Pure Pac also launched online sales of its Pure Otago brand during summer, supplying a range of premium cherry packs throughout New Zealand.

“Customers who ordered through our site were very happy with our delivery, quality and freshness, with many repeat buyers,” she said.

Extensive pruning had already begun in the orchard and marketing plans were underway for next season, she said. The Pure Pac team including directors Murray Little and Malcolm Little will attend Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong in September.

Below: Export client Corina Huang, director RIC International Corp, China, left, and Sharon Kirk, right, inspect cherries on the Pure Pac line.

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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