A new grape vine of opportunity – Table grapes reach high end stores in Japan

Hawke’s Bay is renowned for award-winning wines, but super-sized table grapes grown on the Heretaunga Plains could fetch eye watering prices in high-end department stores in Tokyo, Japan.

In New Zealand 90 percent of grapes grown are for wine with 10 percent for eating, while in Japan it’s the opposite with a bunch of golf ball sized in-season grapes fetching over $100NZ. Shin Koizumi, is one of two Hawke’s Bay based table grape growers who are growing and exporting premium grape varieties to Japan, creating year round supply in the gift market sector.

For Shin he is reliving his childhood, when he spent summers picking grapes and cherries at his grandparents property in the grape growing region of Yamanashi. He would pick and pack the grapes and cherries into big crates to give to his junior school friends. “Gifting food makes people very happy, both for those that gift and those that receive and I loved giving my class mates freshly picked grapes and cherries.”

In Japan table grapes are like Bluff Oysters are to Kiwis – a luxury high-end seasonal product that excites consumers when they see them instore. Shin was looking for a career and lifestyle change, away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Tokyo.

As a successful real estate agent for Japan’s leading real estate firm Mitsui Fudosan, Shin was keen to go back to his family roots as a grape grower and put his talent for find a suitable property to use. He could see there was an opportunity for creating a year round supply of high-end table grapes by finding a suitable Southern Hemisphere growing climate for varieties such as Shine Muscat, Violet King and YuHo, all large seedless grapes under its Goku Shun brand to year round.

He first visited Hawke’s Bay in 2015 as part of researching potential southern hemisphere growing areas to complement the Japanese harvest season, spending time with Japanese grape master Tetsuya Higuchi who had established a table grape orchard in Clive.

Table grape growers Kumi and Shin Koizumi at their Maraekakaho property. Tetsuya is one of the top growers in Japan, producing table grapes for the high-end market, and like Shin wanted to supply grapes all year. Shin says after looking at South Africa, Chile, Australia and New Zealand, he and his business partners who established GREENCOLLAR decided on Hawke’s Bay.

“We wanted a more relaxing lifestyle away from commuting by train into Tokyo, spending all day in meetings and only making it home to get some sleep.” For Shin, it was about creating a new lifestyle – one that wasn’t blue nor white collar and instead a “green collar” lifestyle that his employers would also embody.


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First published by The Profit. Click here to read the full article.