This year has seen a lot of significant changes for Rockit apples: new private equity investors, new board members and a new CEO writes Nicola Watson for FreshPlaza
"It has been quite a watershed year for us," explains new CEO, Austin Mortimer. "It was time for changes within the company, the board and the founder of Rockit had different views as to the direction that the company should go in. It was determined that one side would buy out the other. The shareholder group raised the funds by introducing private equity to buy out the founder."
Rockit has always been promoted as an innovative snack product, and is not to be confused with a commodity apple.
"We want to define our position in the market place more clearly. We see other channels available to us other than mass retail or grocery. Small convenience stores, for example, and the "grab'n go" section of small retailers where the shelf space is more and more being given to healthy snacks. We see our two or three count tubes sitting nicely in that space alongside the hard boiled eggs and muesli bars. The tube supports the idea of it being ready to eat and of course, being an apple, it is healthy."
Austin says that most of the sales just now are made with 3,4 and 5 count tubes, but they are trialling a two piece for vending machines and a one piece for airline and hotel services. He believes the packaging on the small apple will assure people that the apple is clean and fresh.
"Rockit is currently grown in 9 countries and we are considering whether to plant in South Africa and Chile," said Austin. "You need to look at which markets you would serve with the production in there. Apples are mainly grown for export in those countries, Chile exports to the US and South Africa to Europe and since we already have production in both there is not a big need to grow in Chile or South Africa, although Africa is a fast growing market."
80% of Rockit apples grown are within the standard size, there are a number of diameters which cater to the majority of a standard Rockit tree.
"The taste profile is also important and while there are differences between different growing regions, these are not insurmountable," according to Austin. "Most of the Rockit apples are grown for their domestic markets so consumers get a stable taste profile. It is different in markets in Asia, where we need to have several sources to get a year round supply, we hope that with strict quality control we can keep the taste as stable as possible."
In Europe and North America the number of licences issued to grow Rockit apples are for a certain number of trees and the licensees are close to the limit of what they can plant. In New Zealand it is different, according to Austin, the new private equity investors are quite bullish about the opportunity and it is his intention to plant quite a bit more trees.
"It is significant for New Zealand that private equity have bought into it a traditional business, particularly one which is considered high risk in terms of horticulture. They see that we are building a global brand its not just about selling apples. They obviously see a lot of potential, it just goes to show that you can add value to what was a commodity."
"We have no reason to doubt the market for the Rockit apple, we have sold out every year. In 2017 we sold out 10 weeks earlier than ever before, with 40% increase in volume."
The Rockit apple is on the shelves in around 29 different countries, and the next target market is Japan where they hope to start sending apples in 2018.
Austin reckons that the reason the Rockit apple is popular on the Asian market is because it is very sweet and people are happy to eat a smaller apple.
"The feedback we have had from our research in Japan, where you get some very big apples, and demographics tell us there are a big percentage of people who live on their own and also a lot of older people. These people do not want a big apple which they can't finish and just end up leaving most of it. Also our experience from the countries which we are already selling in, is that because it is red and very sweet and crunchy, size doesn't matter, in fact they're more accepting of the smaller apples."
T&G Global, the fruit marketing firm controlled by Germany's BayWa, wants to sell its food processing subsidiary T&G Foods as the apple processing business has been hurt by a decline in fruit volumes and a slide in apple juice concentrate prices.
The company reviewed the unit's operations and determined it's non-core and consequently should be either sold, rationalised or closed, it said in a statement. Expressions of interest close on Nov. 15.
“Despite the best efforts of T&G Foods’ management and staff, the business has struggled to counter the current impact of the significant decline in the volume of fruit for processing in New Zealand and the continued worldwide decline in the commodity price of apple juice concentrate," chief executive Alastair Hulbert said.
Depending on the timing and outcome, T&G may incur a significant after-tax loss due to a write-down in the net book value of T&G Foods’ assets and other associated costs, it said. At this stage the negative impact to the T&G Group is estimated to be about $14 million.
It noted, however, any negative impact will be largely offset by a fair value gain of approximately $14 million from T&G Group’s investment in Grandview Brokerage announced in March, a joint venture in the US that will improve its access to the American fresh produce market.
"Consequently, T&G does not expect a material income statement impact to arise for the year ended 31 December 2017," it said.
T&G Foods has the capacity to process up to 200,000 metric tonnes of apples and other fruit at its two manufacturing sites, one in each of Hastings and Nelson. It processes apples into apple juice and has also diversified into the production of higher margin fruit ingredient products including diced apple for the food services industry, apple sauce in bulk and small format pouches for retail consumers.
While the apple industry has been converting orchards to new apple varieties and in the last five years has added more than 2,500 hectares of orchards, the volume of apples available and suitable for processing has been in significant decline and has negatively impacted T&G Foods trading, it said.
The shares last traded at $3.35 and are down 0.7 percent over the past 12 months.
|nA businessDeskrelease on ShareChat || October 16, 2017 |||
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is amending its regulations to allow the importation of fresh persimmons from New Zealand into the United States. After analysing the potential plant pest risks, APHIS scientists determined that persimmons from New Zealand can be safely imported into the United States under a systems approach.
A systems approach is a series of measures taken by growers, packers, and shippers that, in combination, minimize pest risks prior to importation into the United States. In this case, the systems approach requires orchard certification, orchard pest control, post-harvest safeguards, fruit culling, traceback, and sampling.
In addition, the fruit must be treated with hot water or undergo modified atmosphere cold storage to kill any leafroller moth larvae. The persimmons must also be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate stating that they were produced under the systems approach and were inspected and found to be free of quarantine pests.
In August 2016, APHIS published a proposed rule to amend its regulations to allow the importation of fresh persimmons from New Zealand into the United States provided that they are produced in accordance with a systems approach. The final rule will publish in the Federal Register on October 3, 2017, and will become effective 30 days after publication on November 2, 2017.
Rudolf Mulderij writes in FRESH PlAZA that demand for Kiwifruit is on the rise worldwide, but the supply has been affected by the weather. "New Zealand harvested less this campaign after a difficult growing season, with a hot winter and a lot of rain," explained a trader. Moreover, the Chilean production is also reported to have dropped, and now Italian kiwis are hitting the market and they also expect a smaller volume due to the impact of frost in certain regions and the dry summer. "As a result, the supply will be much scarcer, while the demand continues to rise," assures a trader.
New Zealand: Zespri is looking for new markets Zespri, the export organization of New Zealand kiwis, is seeing strong growth this season. The SunGold continues to grow in markets like Japan and China. Moreover, their sights are set on other markets in South East Asia, India and North America. The European market is also developing well, with strong demand all year round. Japan is the biggest market this season, accounting for the export of 23 million trays. The second most important market is China, accounting for 22 million trays.
The start of the season in the northern hemisphere is around the corner. The Italian volume is expected to amount to around 5 million trays, which is a notable growth. The company aims for the demand to grow faster than the supply, and that seems to be successful. As a result, priorities have to be set as far as the markets are concerned. For the coming years, significant expansions are expected in the acreage, with another 1,800 hectares in Europe and 400 hectares in New Zealand. The company is working on growth for the SunGold. Eventually, the share of green and yellow kiwis must be split 50/50.
The Spectrim platform, a state-of-the-art technology developed by Compac sorts and grades fresh produce by analysing up to 500 images of each individual fruit. This reduces fruit contamination and ensures that the very best produce reaches consumers. Compac and Spectrim make up 90 percent of New Zealand’s fruit grading technology, over 60 percent of North America’s and it’s continuing to expand in other areas including Europe and China.
FreshPlaza - Sep 13, 2017 | What is expected to be the first of many shipments of tamarillo pulp has left Whangarei en route to a US-based food producer and distributor.
NZ Tamarillo Co-operative recently finalised a major deal with its produce destined to join Serious Foodie's product line as New Zealand Tamarillo Grill Sauce & Marinade and New Zealand Tamarillo Vinegar.
Serious Foodie sells online, through farmers' markets and is distributed into gourmet supermarkets and stores across the US and Canada.
More shipments will follow with the pulp from tamarillos grown in the North by the five orchards in the NZ Tamarillo Co-operative processed into pulp and vinegar concentrate here and then sent to the US in bulk.
Maungatapere based co-operative director/manager Robin Nitschke said he and other members of the Tamarillo Co-operative had been working on the deal for two and a half years and are delighted to have reached another milestone.
The co-operative was established three years ago to have more influence at the beginning of the supply chain by channelling all fruit through one merchant and to provide more choices to add value to the fruit at the end of the supply chain.
"So it is rewarding to finally achieve this milestone," Mr Nitschke said. "The importer tells me that feedback on our tamarillo products from customers in the States is very encouraging, with the potential for rapid growth into the specialty food sector".
Mr Nitschke said that after gaining recognition last year as finalists in the Artisan Food Awards, supermarkets, specialty food outlets and food service companies have been stocking the co-operative's products.
An award-winning online marketing campaign has helped New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) build a database of over 65,000 consumers in China.
Developed for the WeChat platform, the campaign has been built around NZTE’s annual Taste NZ programme, which aims to promote New Zealand food and beverage products in a number of Asian markets.
NZTE engaged United Media Solutions (UMS), a digital marketing company based in New Zealand and China, to create and run the WeChat campaign for Taste NZ in the People's Republic.
“The aim of the platform was to create a group of people with the potential and interest to keep purchasing New Zealand products,” said Maxwell Shi, NZTE’s regional marketing and communications manager for Greater China.
The promotion was structured around a set period, in which consumers received a Taste NZ voucher every time they purchased a New Zealand product online.
That voucher included a QR code that consumers could scan using their WeChat account. Every consumer who scanned the QR code received points that could then be used while shopping for other New Zealand products. Regular competitions and prize draws were also held.
The programme has built a database of 70,000 members, which NZTE and UMS have drawn on to analyse consumer insights and promote other New Zealand brands and products.
“This database is our asset, and our aim is to increase this and further promote New Zealand companies and products to that database of consumers. We’ll do this by leveraging the database with incentives to buy New Zealand products,” said Shi.
The NZTE team has plans to grow the programme to reach 100,000 active consumers over the next two years.
The campaign recently won the Best International Social Media Campaign at the 2017 New Zealand Social Media Awards.
Aiming to strengthen its position in the international arena, NZTE travelled to Hong Kong last week for Asia Fruit Logistica. The government agency helped coordinate the country’s presence at the show – alongside Horticulture New Zealand, New Zealand Apples and Pears and NZ Plant and Food Research – with 28 New Zealand horticulture companies exhibiting.
“Most of the New Zealand companies represented here don’t have an in-market presence in Asia,” Shi told Asiafruit. “Our role is to help them connect with key markets so they can facilitate exports and grow their business.”
FreshPlaza | The link between weather and the price of vegetables has become all too apparent for shoppers in recent months. Grocery prices across New Zealand skyrocketed after back-to-back storms wiped out entire crops.
In our household, we swapped kumara for potatoes, after prices nudged $9/kg. Kumara was just $3.12/kg in July 2016, according to Statistics New Zealand.
It's been a terrible growing season for vegetable producers. This year's kumara crop was just one of the casualties. Planting was delayed by unfavourable weather conditions. The seedlings then struggled through a dry summer.
The country's commercial crop is grown in Dargaville and Ruawai in Northland. Record-breaking rain drenched the region just before the harvest was due to start. Mechanical harvesters couldn't get onto the waterlogged paddocks.
I've seen photos of workers trudging through mud, trying to salvage what they could of the crop.
Further south, the fertile dark brown soils of Pukekohe are used to grow everything from onions, to lettuces, squash and broccoli. Vegetables are a big earner for the region.
But Pukekohe wasn't spared when ex Tropical Cyclone Debbie pounded parts of the country. Figures from NIWA show on April 4, Pukekohe received 84mm of rain. It was one of numerous areas to experience their wettest April day on record.
The deluge wiped out entire crops of green vegetables The storms triggered supply shortages. It was reported that some supermarkets in the North Island were left with empty shelves. Lettuce hit $10.56 a kilogram in May, up from $4.23 a year earlier, according to Statistics New Zealand.
Vegetable growers did an excellent job explaining the flow-on effects of miserable weather. Hopefully it meant shoppers pushing trolleys around the fruit and vegetable section of supermarkets at least knew why prices had spiked.
That's why I was surprised to see an Auckland restaurant owner in the media complaining about the hike in vegetable prices. Tobias Roebuck-Ward labelled the high prices "ridiculous" and "absurd". His Ponsonby restaurant had reportedly spent 42 per cent of its weekly food sales in early June on produce. Typically, that figure was between 30 and 35 per cent.
Roebuck-Ward said the rise in prices was difficult for his trendy eatery because it had a no freezer philosophy and bought fresh produce daily. We've had breakfast at his restaurant. It was amazing. But his comments left me feeling like he was out of touch with the daily challenges faced by growers.
I'd hate to think what we would have done if we'd had to rely solely on our vege patch last summer. The tomato crop was a failure. The capsicums grew to the size of a golf ball, then stalled. The perpetual spinach, snow peas and butter beans were the only things that thrived. In fact, the snow pea crop was probably a record one.
Other Taranaki green thumbs were in a similar predicament. Slavko Nikolovski's prized vegetable plot was a mass of rotted fruit and leaves when Stuff spoke to him in mid-April. It was usually brimming with ripe capsicums, verdant sweetcorn and dark juicy grapes.
The fact that some consumers are still grumbling about the record-high cost of vegetables highlights the disconnect between shoppers and reality. If you've ever tried growing broccoli, cauliflower and kumara in your backyard, you'll know they take months to grow - not days. Those storms may seem like a lifetime ago, but it's only been a few months. That's why the flow-on effects are still being felt at the checkout.
In many cases, entire rotting crops had to be replanted. That couldn't happen until sodden soils had dried out enough for tractors to get on them.
I spent a number of years working as a reporter in Orange, which is about four hours inland from Sydney. At the time, the region was gripped by a prolonged drought. Rain would bring hope to weary sheep and cattle farmers, but it could often be a curse for orchardists. A hail storm at Christmas would split cherries, wiping millions from the crop's value. That's why it's important people always try to understand the connection between the weather and their food.
FreshPlaza | A tech company that helps farmers improve crop yields will list on the Australian Securities Exchange today.
CropLogic has raised the $8 million it sought in an IPO, and said it was even offered $1 million on top of that during the offer period. Forty million ordinary shares will be issued at 20 cents each, and the business will have a market cap of $25 million.
The New Zealand “internet of things” agriculture tech company, established in 2010, uses on-field sensors connected via wireless and satellite channels to collect data such as soil moisture and temperature, and rainfall, alongside other information to give farmers a predictive analysis of their efforts.
CropLogic’s current client base is predominantly potato farmers in the Pacific northwest region of the USA after the startup’s June acquisition of US agronomy services provider Professional Ag Services Inc.
The first seven years have been a hard slog financially, with the prospectus showing just $124,906 in revenue and $1.34 million net loss for the year ending March 2017 and similar numbers seen the previous year.
The $8 million raised in the IPO – which added to $3 million already secured in the past 12 months — would be used for business growth, market development, research and to “provide a healthy level of working capital”, according to CropLogic managing director Jamie Cairns.