The issue of low taste being a significant risk to Gold3 was highlighted to growers very early in the Gold3 journey. Zespri was transparent with Gold3 growers about the risk and the fact that the answers lay with growers in ensuring they produced high taste fruit acceptable to the markets.
Zespri research efforts aimed at highlighting new orchard technologies to improve taste have been significant. Countless studies and trials have been done in an effort to better understand what drives high taste.
Grower engagement has been excellent from day one. Led by OPC (Orchard Productivity Centre), Zespri have used a fantastic extension programme to highlight key orchard behaviours which have influence on taste. Methods used successfully include field days, Webinars, Tech Forums, Infographics, and the availability of a plethora of easy to access information.
The Zespri payment model is complex and not easily understood by the average grower. Taste payments are designed to encourage good orchard behaviour but their effect is lessened if growers don’t fully understand the implications. Further work needs to be done to determine the percentage of growers who fully under stand the payment system and the relevant payment drivers.
The Gold3 payment system at present isn’t perfect and doesn’t adequately incentivise growers to provide high taste fruit. The 2015 Zespri Taste Review, which is currently under consultation, highlights several areas of improvement including making a higher Minimum Taste Standard and changing the TZG curve to increase the amount of money which is distributed through taste payments. These measures would likely achieve the stated goals of better rewarding growers for producing fruit the consumers want, as well as removing the tail of poor tasting fruit getting into the market.
There are several other methods of adjusting the financial model that should be considered. Re-introducing a Market Delivery Premium to those growers who provide high taste fruit would be something the growers would easily identify with. Growers are more likely to change behaviours in response to what they understand. Increasing the Gold3 Maximum Taste Payment percentage would achieve similar results to amending the TZG curve by better redistributing grower payments so more weighting is placed on taste. This method is likely to be more easily understood by growers and therefore has more potential to drive better behaviour.