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Friday 03 December 2021

New $40m Rockit HQ launchpad for 70% sales surge – CEO

20th May 2021 By Bridget O'Connell | | @foodtickernz

Miniature apple company Rockit Global is ready to cut the red ribbon on its new circa $40m global headquarters following a bumper 2021 harvest which is 65% up on last year.

The Hawke’s Bay company’s chief executive, Mark O’Donnell, said the new 21,000 sq m Hastings development, which included a packhouse and coolstore, would enable Rockit to pack 400,000 – 500,000 tubes of the apples each day at peak production. It officially opens on 1 June.

The facility would enable Rockit to deliver 120 million apples this year, with sales expected to be up 60%-70% following a 40% hike last year.

Mark O’Donnell

“With the planting we’ve done and the yielding we’ve done from the orchards, we just know there is all this fruit coming this way – we know we are going to do that because we’ve picked them,” O’Donnell told the Ticker.

“Put it this way, we’re basically going from last year when we shipped 200 containers internationally, to this year where we are targeting around 450 containers.

“So, now it’s about how we sell them into the markets and how we package – so we need this extra capacity.”

The apple company exports close to 100% of its fruit to a number of overseas markets including China, Vietnam, India, Taiwan and the Middle East “because the returns are so much better for us to export,” according to O’Donnell, who joined Rockit in January.

The fruit, to which Rockit holds the exclusive global rights, is also licensed to growers in the US, Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and South Africa, who can sell domestically but must seek permission from head office before they can export.

Rockit had traditionally sold plastic tubes containing five of the snack-sized fruit but had recently run a pilot in its Asian markets supplying convenience stores such as the vast 7-eleven chain with a two-pack.

These proved popular with consumers wanting a healthy and convenient snack food especially when Covid meant food safety concerns were high.

“People don’t want to buy fruit sitting there loose and thinking tens of people might have touched it,” said O’Donnell.

“We’ve produced a shelf ready pack – they [retailers] rip the top off and put it on the shelf and there is a two-pack there for people to buy in convenience mode.

“[The pilot] is going really, really well, and there is strong interest from the US market too but we are still working through the technology of automation because it is not something you want to be doing manually for too long.”

With the growth in sales there has also been some new appointments at the business.

This month, former Coca-Cola Amatil general counsel and company secretary Tom Lane joined the company in the newly created position of general counsel.

And it has also just appointed nine-year Fonterra veteran Steven Anderson as its new chief financial officer – a position that was contracted previously. Anderson, who has background in banking with both Deutsche Bank and Lloyds Banking Group, will join the group in August.

Rockit is backed by a number of investors including its largest shareholder Pioneer Capital and follow private equity firm Oriens Capital. Ngāi Tahu Holdings recently took a 6% stake and investors Punchbowl and PB Rock have lifted their combined interest to 15%.



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