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Tiny apples Rockit in popularity

Thursday, 19 March, 2015

Miniature apples are taking on the global snack market thanks to a unique packaging concept. Worldwide consumer demand for the tiny Rockit apples has grown 700% since 2013, leading Havelock North Fruit Company to invest $17 million in a state-of-the-art food packaging facility in Hawke’s Bay.

“We’ve packaged miniature apples into tubes and created a premium price snack food, rather than apples that sit in a box at the supermarket,” said Phil Alison, managing director of Havelock North Fruit Company.

“I wanted to create a premium food brand that wouldn’t look out of place in display at the checkout counter as a healthy alternative to chocolate and chips.”

The Rockit apple packaging facility.

The Rockit apple packaging facility.

The environmentally sustainable and energy-efficient food packaging facility was officially opened by New Zealand’s Minister for Economic Development Steven Joyce.

The packaging facility and the company’s 153 hectares of orchards employ 87 staff, with more than 20 full-time staff appointed over the last six months in head office roles such as finance, sales and marketing, logistics, facility management and project management.

More than 90 seasonal staff have also been employed as post-harvest technicians - a new role that Alison hopes will lead to further careers in the sector.

The company partnered with Eastern Institute of Technology Hawke’s Bay and Ministry of Social Development to develop a pre-employment course, which has led to jobs for more than 20 previously unemployed locals.

“We’re thrilled with the outcome of the course. We took all of the graduates and they’re very motivated and are enjoying their jobs,” said Alison.

In 2004, Alison saw an opportunity to market a new apple variety - called PremA96 at the time - that others in the fruit industry failed to see.

“I had a vision to create a global retail brand and through government support and investor funding we now have global licence arrangements in over 30 territories and are blasting Rockit apples to the world,” Alison said.

“It is very true to say that the opportunities are larger now than ever before. Rockit will push the boundaries and intends to shake up the healthy snack market globally.”

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