Kiwi

By Gina Marzolo, graduate student of agricultural sciences, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, grmarzolo@cpp.edu, February 2016.

Edited by Dan Lee, Communications Specialist – College of Agriculture, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, dblee@cpp.edu, February 2016.

Introduction

Kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa) (also known as fuzzy kiwifruit) grow from a large vine, which is native to China. In commercial production, kiwi vines are grown on a trellis system similar to grapes (Beutel, 1990). Kiwifruit is comparison in size to that of a large egg, and its flavor is both sweet and tart.

In the 1940s, New Zealand was the first country to start growing kiwifruit commercially. Kiwifruit was previously named Chinese gooseberry. However, in the late 1950s, the common name was changed to kiwifruit for marketing purposes; in North America the name kiwifruit is often shortened to kiwi (Beutel, 1990) (NZHistory.net, 2015).

Kiwi was first introduced by import to the United States during the early 1960s by a woman named Frieda Caplan (nicknamed the “Kiwi Queen”). Caplan is a specialty fruit entrepreneur and is best known for introducing once considered exotic fruits to the palates of U.S. consumers. She is the founder of Frieda’s Specialty Produce located in Los Alamitos, Calif. (Karp, 2013)

Currently, California produces 98 percent of the commercially grown kiwi in the United States (Beutel, 1990) (Stein, 2014).

Marketing Channels

The marketing season for fresh California kiwi is from Oct. 1 to May 31 (NASS, 2015).  

The California Kiwifruit Commission has some great advice about marketing fresh kiwi to add value. Research has shown that selling kiwi by the pound, instead of singularly priced, increases sales. The commission also suggests displaying kiwi next to best sellers such as bananas and grapes and to have different purchasing sizes available such as 3 and 4-pound clamshells. Another selling point of kiwi is its nutrition. Kiwi has twice the vitamin C of an orange and more potassium than a banana. Kiwi is also high in antioxidants and a good source of dietary fiber (CA Kiwifruit Commission – Best Practices Guide, n.d.).

The majority of kiwi fruit are produced for the fresh sector. Fresh kiwi works well in many recipes including cocktails, gazpachos, meat dishes, salads, salsas, smoothies and more (Zespri, n.d.). However, be aware that fresh kiwi has an enzyme called actinidin that breaks down proteins, and thus will curdle milk and dissolve gelatin. Therefore, avoid using fresh kiwi in recipes including those ingredients, unless heating the kiwi first (high heat inactivates the enzyme actinidin) (Utah State University, n.d.). Since actinidin breaks down proteins, it works great as a meat tenderizer (Matsumoto, 2012).

Although less common, kiwi can be processed to further add value. Kiwi has been processed into products such as baked goods, candies, ice cream, jam, juice, puree, popsicles, as well as beauty products. Kiwi also freezes well, retaining much of its flavor (CA Kiwifruit Commission – Freezing Kiwifruit, n.d.).

Production

Kiwi is a relatively new crop grown in California, with the first commercial plantings made in the late 1960s to early 1970s. Kiwi grows well in Sacramento, the San Joaquin Valley and the surrounding areas (Beutel, 1990). Due to their large size and high sugar content, the main variety grown in California is the Hayward variety (CA Kiwifruit Commission – Availability of Kiwifruit, n.d.).

In 2014, California produced nearly 28,000 tons of kiwi fruit from 3,900 acres. Yield per acre was roughly 7.18 tons, priced at approximately $1,190 per ton. The total value of the crop was almost $32.7 million (NASS, 2015).

Of the almost 28,000 tons of kiwi produced in 2014, slightly more than 90 percent went to the fresh market, whereas roughly 10 percent were processed (NASS, 2015).

China is the largest producer of kiwi, followed by Italy, New Zealand, and Chile respectively (FAOSTAT, 2015). The United States is the ninth-largest producer of kiwi (Zespri, 2010).

Two other main cultivars grown for their fruit are Actinidia arguta and Actinidia kolomikta. But they produce much smaller fruit then Actinidia deliciosa, and for that reason they are not widely commercially grown in the United States (Cornell University, 2015) (Himelrick & Powell, 1998).

Exports/Imports/United States Consumption

During the production year 2014-2015, the United States exported 20.2 million pounds of kiwi valued at almost $17.6 million. The two main countries to receive kiwi from the United States were Mexico (receiving 13.6 million pounds, valued at $11 million) and Canada (receiving nearly 4.2 million pounds valued at nearly $4.2 million) (ERS, 2016).

That same production year (2014-2015), the United States imported almost 146.6 million pounds of kiwi valued at nearly $118 million. The three main countries exporting kiwi to the United States were Chile (exported 63.6 million pounds, valued at almost $42.4 million); Italy (exported 51.7 million pounds, valued at $43.2 million); and New Zealand (exported almost 29.9 million pounds, valued at $31.5) (ERS, 2016).

In 1990 per capita consumption of kiwi was 0.25 pounds per person (Beutel, 1990). In 2010 an article published by the Western Farm Press estimated per capita consumption of kiwi to be 0.5 pounds per person (Western Farm Press, 2010). Due to its relative uniqueness, no data on the current per capita consumption of kiwi is available.

Management

As with any crop production, there are many management practices needed to produce a successful yield, and kiwifruit are no exception. Some of the most crucial management practices for kiwi include irrigation, pollination, wind and frost protection, and pruning.

Irrigation is a critical factor in the management of a kiwi vineyard, as kiwi vines require more water than grapes and fruit trees growing in similar soils and weather. Kiwi vines often need irrigation up to four times per week, and during the summer months they can need water daily, particularly in California (Beutel, 1990).

Kiwi vines bear either female or male flowers, but not both. Therefore both sexes need to be planted within a vineyard to ensure cross-pollination, thus fruit set. The best ratio of female vines to male vines is 8:1. Bee pollination is integral for successful yields, as wind pollination is not efficient for commercial yields (Beutel, 1990).

The canes (shoots of the plant that produce fruit) of kiwi vines are susceptible to breaking in areas with higher winds, therefore it is advised to plant kiwi in areas with minimal wind (Beutel, 1990) (Pacific Northwest Extension, 2005).

Frost is another important factor to consider when establishing a kiwi crop, specifically varieties of Actinidia deliciosa (fuzzy kiwifruit) such as Hayward. The Hayward variety can tolerate temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit, but can still be damaged at slightly higher temperatures (Pacific Northwest Extension, 2005).

As with other commercially fruiting crops, pruning encourages increased flower budding in kiwi. However, in California careful pruning needs to be done to prevent sun damage that can occur during bright summer days (Pacific Northwest Extension, 2005).

Financial

Helpful enterprise budget for kiwi:

Sources

Links checked February 2016.