Wednesday, 11 October 2023 08:25

Rockit set to relaunch

Written by  Peter Burke
Rockit Apples is reasonably positive about the coming season. Rockit Apples is reasonably positive about the coming season.

Hawke's Bay-based Rockit Apples says it is reasonably positive about the coming season.

Chief executive Mark O'Donnell told Hort News while the company had lost about 10% of its trees due to Cyclone Gabrielle, in the main it was the crop not actual trees that were damaged. He says some orchards were so badly damaged that apple trees won't be planted back in certain areas.

But O'Donnell adds they have been saved by the fact that they had a significant future planting programme taking place which will help the company get back on its feet quickly.

"Sure, it will take us three or four years to get to where we'd hoped to get, but in that period of time the volumes of fruit will be back to what was predicted."

Rockit is a miniature apple and a hybrid of the popular Gala and Splendour apples. What's especially unique is that the apples are packed in various sizes of plastic tubes and are designed for the healthy snack market.

The Rockit company, founded by Phil Alison, was sold to equity investors and, since then, has expanded at pace.

The company itself owns orchards, but also contracts local growers to supply apples. It also has licensed growers in Belgium, Germany, France, Spain and the UK.

In the past season, O'Donnell says Rockit lost about a third of the past season's crop due to Gabrielle and other rain storms. He says pests and disease have also caused problems in terms of fruit quality leading to acess issues in some markets.

"It's been a year of juggling priorities to try and maximise the return to growers," he told Hort News.

But O'Donnell adds that the company is pretty excited about what 2024 might look like. He says they are busy putting together sales, marketing and brand campaigns to capitalise on market opportunities, which he believes means it's going to be a very good year for Rockit.

Tough Going In China

O'Donnell says while China has slowed, Rockit has been fortunate to capitalise on the Moon Festival that kicks off in late September and early October.

"That is a big gifting time in China, so we have a big focus on gift boxes. We did our global campaign in China this year with Pokémon and last year it was Minons and the year before Pac Man."

However, O'Donnell concedes that China is tough going, with consumers in that market spending carefully and his company has been impated by that like everybody else.

"That just means that we have to be more on our game and more connected to our retailers and consumers than we ever have ever been before."

O'Donnell says Rockit is well connected in China and have seen dedicated staff there. It is also part of PCNZ (Primary Collaboration NZ) a joint venture set up by a number of companies based out of its office in Shanghai.

He told Hort New that it appears all of South East Asia is 'taking a breath' along with China. O'Donnell says the company is looking carefully at its sales and marketing plans for 2024 to ensure it makes the most of the availabel opportunities.

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