Rockit ready for biggest apple season yet


Innovative New Zealand apple producer, Rockit Global is fired up for its biggest season yet, which will see the company export around 200 million apples – almost double last year’s volume.

The Hawke’s Bay-based company will also be exporting all-year round from New Zealand for the first time to its ever-expanding network of international markets. Chief executive, Mark O’Donnell says 2024 is going to be a year of unprecedented growth for Rockit, which is recovering well from the Covid and cyclone difficulties of the past few years. “We have ambitious but achievable growth targets, and our aim is to become the world’s most-loved apple brand through our strong sales and marketing plan to help deliver a strong return for our growers following the challenges in 2023.

“We’re more than doubling sales in key global markets – China, the Middle East, Vietnam – and we’re expanding into newer markets we haven’t traditionally supplied, such as convenience channels targeting 7-Eleven and Circle K in North America.” Rockit has also sold product into India, with the intention of securing a foothold in that huge market. “Around the world, we’re seen as a brand with both attitude and a point of difference, through our innovative grab and go pack. We present differently to other fruit and to other apples. Our focus is on being a year-round FMCG product, rather than seasonal.”

O’Donnell says Rockit also engages with consumers in a refreshing and energetic way and, to that end, will shortly announce an exciting global IP partnership. In the past, it has promoted itself in China alongside popular consumer brands such as Minions. Rockit brand character, Rocki is also proving popular with consumers overseas, while new family packs launched in Asia have been a massive success.

“We always knew 2024 was going to be a big year, with our biggest harvest yet. However, the last couple of years were challenging after Covid hit at the peak of harvest which put enormous pressure on labour for picking and packing our crop. Then last year the cyclone took out a third of our apples.
“So, instead of a steady climb to this point of doubling our crop, we’re doing it all at once. And this will be the first year where we fulfil 12 months’ supply from New Zealand. We’ve achieved this by increasing plantings in New Zealand and increasing our distribution channels and shelf space in global markets.
“Supplying from New Zealand across 12 months also ensures consistent quality for Rockit apples, as the taste profile is different in other countries, just as a sauvignon blanc from Marlborough is different to the same grape grown in other countries.”

O’Donnell said consumer awareness for the brand continues to improve each year, with 88% of premium consumers recently surveyed stating they love Rockit. Sustainability is another Rockit focus, with New Zealand part of the pilot market for new sustainable tubes. “We did a successful trial here in 2022 and are looking to expand this with a bigger volume, along with rolling them out in various global markets. Rockit is working to tailor packaging formats and types to market requirements, with a particular focus on maintaining apple stability and quality, and reducing food waste.”

O’Donnell said New Zealand growers wanted to see their fruit available to Kiwis and we have achieved this with the support of Foodstuffs, BP, Farro and Independent fresh produce retailers.
“With more acres planted and expansion into the South Island, we have geographic diversity and access to some great blocks of land and partners. Building a fruit supply base that can endure changing climates and extreme weather events enables us to safeguard our year-round supply as we continue to expand our networks and quality reputation worldwide.”
While Rockit is a successful global company, its headquarters will continue to be in Hawke’s Bay, he says. “Most of our senior team relocated here from Auckland but others in the wider leadership team are based in Auckland, Tauranga and in our global markets. However, Heretaunga, Hawke’s Bay is our home, and our head office will remain here.”
Winner of the Supreme Award at the 2022 New Zealand International Business Awards, and the 2023 TVNZ NZ Marketing Team of the Year Award, Rockit is a Kiwi export and marketing success story, now selling into more than 30 different markets.

“We can’t wait to continue disrupting the apple category by doing things differently through our strong brand, marketing positioning and innovation as we take on the world one small bite at a time,” concludes O’Donnell.