Rockit seeking growers in the South Island as well as more in the East Coast.

Hawke’s Bay apple company Rockit are looking to expand their licensing to growers in the Canterbury and Nelson regions.

The company – describing itself as being more akin to a Fast Moving Consumer Goods company than traditional apple growers – has been on a path of exponential growth, apart from a flat year from 2021 to 2022. This year they will export more than 76 million tiny apples and next year, this should more than double to 160 million. 

“The long-term plan over the next five to six years is working up to 4000 containers from the New Zealand plantings. So, it’s a significant growth plan that we have got there,” said Rockit general manager commercial, Tom Lane.

With orchards in Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne, Rockit are identifying suitable land and growers in the South Island for an additional 200 hectares of apple trees, as well as looking for more growers in Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne. 

“We’re looking to partner with some truly great horticultural operators, as well as arable, sheep, beef and dairy farmers seeking new income streams.

“There is certainly a massive opportunity in the south – stable weather conditions, good water supply, and the prospect of growing brilliantly coloured fruit for our markets across the globe,” Lane said.

Rockit saw the South Island as a logical move, and would be looking to scale relatively quickly in the coming years. The company would work closely with new growers to ensure they are well supported as they put trees in the ground for the first time next year. 

It was also evaluating opportunities to establish a Rockit Management Services (RMS) team offering full orchard management options as well as support and expertise for independent growers in the south, he said.

A feasibility study into establishing a shared packhouse facility in Canterbury was also underway, so that growers in South Canterbury didn’t have to continue to ship fruit to Nelson for packing.

Meantime, the acclaim rolls in for Rockit. This week the company took home the prize for Best Large Business and the coveted overall Supreme Award at last night’s glittering New Zealand International Business Awards 2022 – arguably the most prestigious awards event in the country, recognising Kiwi achievement in the competitive global marketplace.

Rockit has orchards in the USA, UK and Europe to keep their key markets supplied all year around. Rockit sells its branded apples in their distinctive tubes across more than 30 countries including China, India, Vietnam, the USA and UAE. 

Lane says it sees its apples as more like a Snickers bar or a can of Coke, albeit significantly healthier. Rockit looks for consistency in size, colour, taste and crispness, because they are targeting the on-the-go snack market, and because they are charging a premium and so need to deliver on quality.

New Zealand Trade Association figures show that Rockit’s apples attracted a large premium in China. The average sale price of Rockit’s apples in China was US$7.79 per kilogram, whereas the average price of other NZ apples in China was US$2.41 per kg.

This is why we rarely see Rockit apples on the shelves of New Zealand supermarkets, although the company is running some trials in selected stores of some products in various packaging styles, including a two-pack, a cardboard tube and a cellulose tube.

Branding is very important to Rockit, and it just may well be the first fruit ever to be marketed in the same way that confectionary and soft drinks traditionally have been.

“We did a promotion with Universal Pictures this year, in China and HK, with Minions. We had branded Minions tubes that went out and we couldn’t keep up with demand and they became collector’s items in their own right. Last year we did Packman and we are just working on a new campaign for the upcoming harvest.”

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Photo supplied.


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