Angels fund expansion by Vocado

Vocado is using its latest round of $600,000 in angel financing to boost its sales and marketing capabilities and ensure it can meet the supply needs of the biggest global fast-food chains, say the Tauranga-based company’s directors.

Vocado has developed a proprietary method of processing avocados into pulp for use in guacamole and other food products. The method allows the refrigerated pulp to have a longer usable life.

After building up domestic sales, Vocado was now close to securing one of the biggest international fast food companies as a client, following a rigorous audit process, said director and shareholder Andrew Darling. The company cannot be named because of a non-disclosure agreement.

“We’ve established sales, the factory is operating and the base of the business is there,” said Mr Darling. “We’re growing new sales and to do that we need to invest in our sales and marketing capability.”

The new funding would go in the first instance towards recruiting a general manager and build up stocks to ensure the company was well-placed to supply bigger clients.
Company founder and managing director Collin Elder, who developed the processing technology, said the business had built up the capacity to secure local fast food franchise and other food service industry clients. “With these big global fast food groups, it takes a lot to get them, and it’s a big drama for them to change, so once they change they are reluctant to move. They live in a world of needing to know the supply lines are in place.”

That meant Vocado had to be able to compete on every level to win global clients, he said, and not just on price and taste, though that was essential. “They need to be assured that we can give them security of supply.”

Vocado uses a mechanical production process that aims to get the avocado pulp into an oxygen-free environment as soon as possible so that the fruit doesn’t brown. Competitors mostly use a system called High Pressure Processing (HPP), said Enterprises Angels executive director Bill Murphy, who is on Vocado’s board.

Mr Murphy said Vocado’s process was more efficient than HPP, did not require millions of dollars in equipment, and resulted in a product that lasted longer and stayed fresher.

“Collin is a smart Kiwi who was determined to find a new solution,” said Mr Murphy.

Mr Elder said all the companies Vocado had approached had given them an opportunity to compete. As well as domestic clients, the company had also now begun to pick up some export work, shipping five containers to Australia this year.

Mr Darling, whose own company Just Avocados grows and packs avocados, said Vocado was in a hugely exciting category internationally.

First published on on 23 December 2014

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