Global domination predicted for Rockit

Rockit apples could become a staple snack worldwide, says Rockit Global chairman John Loughlin.

The company was named ExportNZ Hawke’s Bay’s ASB Exporter of the Year last week, also winning won the Napier Port Industry Trail Blazer Award.

“We have a little apple with huge sweet taste that stores and never fails to impress people as a snack experience and a great fruit experience,” he said.

He said New Zealand was responsible for what was probably the greatest modern innovation in fruit, the gold Kiwifruit.

“Our ambition is to put Rockit apples right up there with them.”

He gave tribute to the vision and drive of founder Phil Alison to establish the product and the contribution of angel investors and the Rockit team in Havelock North. The investors contributed “enormously” with strategy, marketing, growing and the intellectual property aspects of the business.

“We have had a great team of people that have been through a lot and contributed enormously from orchard to pack house to market.

International partners were also growing the apple variety which Rockit Global wished to market on their behalf.
“We are not finished yet. This has the potential to be something really special and it is fantastic to be recognised so early in our journey.”

Few in Hawke’s Bay have a track record such as Mr Loughlin, giving weight to his prediction that Rockit is a global game changer. Food industry companies dominate his extensive governorship record. Chairmanships include Zespri Group, EastPack, Firstlight Foods, Allied Farmers and Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers.

Directorships include Napier Port, AgResearch, New Zealand Meat Producers Board and NZ Lamb Company (North America).
In his executive career he was Richmond’s chief executive for five years, leaving in 2002 before it was taken over by Dunedin-based PPCS (now Silver Fern Farms).

With wife Kathryn, he established Askerne Estate Winery.

Pockit apples are slightly bigger than a golf ball, sweet flavoured with a strong red colour and marketed in plastic tubes. The variety is a product of Plant & Food’s Havelock North-based cross-breeding programme, started by the late Dr Don Mackenzie and developed further by Allan White.

First published in NZ Herald – 4 July 2017

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Rockit Global’s mini-apples grow maxi-value

Rockit markets the miniature Rockit variety apple snacks and can’t keep up with demand. The apple snack is grown in both hemispheres with Rockit holding variety rights.
Pioneer Capital and Oriens Capital’s purchased Mr Alison’s stake in March.
“This result, while not cash-in-the-pocket, is a great outcome for the angel investors in these companies, the early-stage investment community and the agtech sector in New Zealand,” Mr Murphy said.
“Not only does it demonstrate that it is possible to get close to that mythical 10x return but that it’s possible to achieve that in a New Zealand food/agtech company. That’s something we’ve been working on for years.”
Enterprise Angel investors first invested in Rockit Global Limited (then called Havelock North Fruit Company) in 2011 and in the Rockit Orchard Limited Partnerships, becoming the first large-scale growers of the Rockit apples variety in 2012 and 2014. They formed the board of Havelock North Fruit Company Limited (now Rockit Global Limited) and guided growth thanks to expertise in the kiwifruit industry.
Last year Rockit exported 77 containers and earned its first profit while a wrestle for control between Mr Alison and six other shareholders went to the High Court. Mr Alison owned the largest single share in the company and had sought to buy the others out, instead bowing out a wealthy man this year.
“Securing funding as Rockit has from New Zealand private-equity growth investors is very significant and something I hope we see a lot more of in future,” Mr Murphy said.
“It sends a signal to the early-stage investors and entrepreneurs that it is possible to achieve post angel-round funding to better position young New Zealand companies to provide substantial investment returns.”
Rockit chairman John Loughlin said it was very positive that high-calibre growth equity investors such as Pioneer and Oriens recognised “the tremendous potential” in Rockit and would contribute governance expertise and additional capital to help the company deliver on “ambitious” growth plans.
Mr Murphy said Mr Alison did a great job in identifying “the lovely little apple” and a successful marketing strategy.
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Bay of Plenty investors take control of Rockit apple company

An argument over the ownership of the high-profile company responsible for producing the miniature Rockit apples has been resolved, with Bay of Plenty-based Oriens Capital and Auckland’s Pioneer Capital buying out company founder Phil Alison.
The Havelock North Fruit Company had been producing the apples, which are marketed in plastic tubes as a high quality snack food in New Zealand and internationally.
Mr Alison, who controlled a 49.5 per cent share of the company, originally wanted to buy out the remaining shareholders, which included a number of prominent Bay of Plenty investors. The disagreement went to the High Court last year after the parties failed to agree on price.
However, the company announced yesterday that an agreement had been reached by the shareholders under which the two experienced private equity companies would acquire all of Mr Alison’s shareholding. The transaction was also significant in being the first investment by Oriens Capital, the regions-focused Tauranga private equity firm launched last year.
Mr Alison has sold all his Rockit-related interests and would no longer be involved with the company, its subsidiaries, or related orchard suppliers of fruit.
Effective immediately, the company would begin trading as Rockit Global Ltd. Acting chief executive Austin Mortimer has been appointed chief executive of Rockit Global.
Chairman John Loughlin said the value of the transaction remained confidential.
Rockit snacks were now grown in seven countries and sold through partners in 22 countries, he said. In 2016, the company exported 77 containers of fruit and earned its maiden profit.
“With only 3 per cent of Rockit apple snacks sold in New Zealand, our sales and marketing focus is on key international markets,” Mr Loughlin said.
“We have strong growth plans for 2017 and the years ahead. The new shareholders have experience in growing New Zealand export businesses. They will contribute governance expertise and additional capital to help the company deliver on its ambitious growth plans.”
The Rockit Global board will include four members of the previous board – Mr Loughlin, plus well-known Tauranga investors Murray Denyer, Steve Saunders and Neil Craig. They would be joined by Oriens Capital chief executive James Beale and Pioneer Capital investment director Craig Styris.
Mr Loughlin said Mr Alison had made a huge contribution in recognising the potential of the fruit, then establishing and leading the business toward building the Rockit global brand.
“We will always be greatly appreciative of the work he put in to creating the international platform for the business,” he said.
Mr Denyer, a partner with Cooney Lees Morgan, Steve Saunders, founder of the Plus Group, and Neil Craig, founder of Craigs Investment Partners, are all Tauranga members of the Bay of Plenty’s Enterprise Angels start-up funding group.
“This is a major milestone for us,” said Mr Denyer.
“Bringing Pioneer and Oriens Capital into the business strengthens our share register enormously, and gives us access to their business expertise and experience,” he said.
“It’s also a success story for Enterprise Angels. Steve, Neil, John McDonald and myself all invested into this business back in 2011 when the founder first sought to raise capital. We’ve worked very hard to get the business to where it is today – to a point where it has gained the attention of and attracted investment from private equity players. It has graduated out of the angel investment space – something that few start-ups ever manage.”
Mr Mortimer described Rockit as significant New Zealand success story.
“It clearly demonstrates how high-quality fruit can be positioned as a premium, value-added product through a robust brand strategy. Rockit Global is now well-positioned to continue its rapid growth and capitalise on the substantial grab and go, healthy snack market.”
Rockit Global
– Rockit are miniature apples (1.5 x the size of a golf ball) with a sweet flavour, thin skin, and distinctive bright red blush.
– North Havelock Fruit Company worked with Plant & Food Research, together with Hawke’s Bay company Prevar, to develop the apple.
– Rockit Global now has the exclusive international licence to grow and market the PremA96 apple variety.
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Hawkes Bay economy gets major blast from new food facility

The power of angel investment. Enterprise Angel backed Rockit Apples creating jobs in the Hawkes Bay. And a cry for angels in that region too!

The global success of Rockit™ apples has led to a $17 million investment into land development and a state-of-the-art food packaging facility in Havelock North.

Minister for Economic Development, Hon. Steven Joyce officially opened the multi-million dollar food facility today (Wednesday).

Havelock North Fruit Company managing director Phil Alison said world-wide consumer demand, which is up 700 percent from 2013, has proved a fruit such as an apple can be marketed as “a premium snack food and compete against sugar-coated confectionary.”

Read more on www.scoop.co.nz

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