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Saturday 21 May 2022

Dole looks for Sweetio spot as MD heads for the exit

31st March 2022 By Jonathan Mitchell | | @foodtickernz

Dole New Zealand is navigating supply and demand hurdles to introduce a new variety of banana locally, just as the business looks to recruit a new leader.

Dole has delayed the full NZ launch of its Sweetie banana variety until at least spring.

The tropical fruit importer trialled the Sweetio banana in selected Foodstuffs stores, FruitWorld, as well as independent retailers last year.

However, general manager Steve Barton told the Ticker a full launch into the New Zealand market has been pushed back until at least spring this year.

“The demand in Northern Asia and shortages from the Northern Highlands growing areas has delayed a full release until later this year”.

It was currently sold throughout northern Asia, Korea, China and Japan, very successfully, Barton said.

He said the banana grew slower and was sweeter, similar to the bobby banana, which Dole trialled in 1999 and successfully launched locally in 2000.

Steve Barton

“We are constantly looking at expanding the range. Often we are trying to improve the variety,” he said.

“Although [sweetio] exhibit a higher sweetness, the combination of more intense flavour and creamy texture are equally important.”

Barton said it was targeting a broad consumer base for the new product, however, he said the size would suit lunchboxes.

Dole stocked fresh fruit including bananas and pineapple in Foodstuffs, which was distributed by MG Marketing, and also had a canned and packaged fruit range distributed by Pavé into the foodservice and supermarket channels.

Broader supply chain issues as a result of Covid-19 had also been piling pressure more widely on its operations, Barton said, and Dole had largely been absorbing higher input costs by reviewing its cost structures.

“We’ve re-evaluated packaging, we’ve re-evaluated costs for marketing, and we’ve tried to reduce fruit loss which is a cost to the business.”

Barton told the Ticker he was heading for the exit after 28 years with the company, which has revenue of around $36m a year.

At 66, he said it was time to inject some new blood into the New Zealand operation, which was part of the wider Dole Asia Group.

“We’re up to the stage where we are looking for someone.”

The New Zealand office currently had two employees, Barton as GM, along with marketing manager Kamilla Camilo, with an internal appointment under consideration for the role.

Since the first shipment arrived in New Zealand in 1993, more than 71 million boxes of bananas and 12 million cartons of pineapples had been imported from the Philippines.



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