Unprecedented demand has seen innovative New Zealand apple company, Rockit Global Limited, Ready. Set. Rockit into markets across the globe, selling out at record prices in one of its most challenging years yet.
Against the tide, the Hawke’s Bay headquartered apple brand has been a high performer in a tough season, says its CEO Mark O’Donnell. “We’ve made massive progress towards our vision of becoming the world’s most loved apple brand this year. And we’re about to Rockit into 2023 with predictions we’ll more than double our 2022 export, packing and shipping 160 million apples next year.”
Growth, Mark says, is coming strongly from the Middle East and South East Asia, with three countries in particular showing the sharpest uptake in Rockit™ apple sales. “We’ve welcomed a new distributor into the Rockit family in Indonesia, which helps account for a 154% uplift year-on-year – while in the Middle East, the FIFA World Cup 2023 boosted sales in Qatar by 38%, and expanding direct-to-retail distribution in Saudi Arabia increased sales there by 88%.”
Rockit also implemented a direct-to-consumer promotional model in Saudi Arabia, says Mark, gamifying retail like no other produce brand in the Middle East, during which the number of Rockit™ apples reaching regular and new consumers there doubled.
“Meaningful brand affiliations – such as the partnership we formed with the Minions movie franchise in China this year – has become a proven model for us, particularly in our key markets across Asia, where the bulk of our fruit is sold.”
Demand for its fruit is growing at such a rate that Rockit is now seeking to partner with new growers in its established growing regions of Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, alongside a planned expansion into the South Island. “It’s incredibly exciting to be making a move south,” says Mark. “We’re currently reaching out to experienced growers and landowners in Nelson and Canterbury who are looking to diversify their businesses – and the response is already hugely positive.”
Mark says it’s the dedication and passion of its growers that has accounted for a successful year in trying circumstances. “What haven’t we had thrown at us in 2022?” he says. “Between logistics challenges, labour shortages and weather events – and let’s not forget about Covid 19 – it’s been a tough time for anyone growing apples in New Zealand. But we know we have the best team, and the best growers, in the country – and probably the world. They’ve gone above and beyond to ensure a consistent supply of delicious, fresh fruit reaches all the markets we export to, and that our business continues to thrive.”
External recognition of Rockit’s hard work, global reach and stellar success has been “the icing on the cake” for the business, adds Mark. A clutch of awards – including being named Supreme Winner at the New Zealand International Business Awards, picking up Hawke’s Bay Exporter of the Year, the Large Business Trade Award at the NZ China Business Awards and claiming gold at both the AXIS and the Best Awards – makes the year’s efforts all the more worthwhile, he says.
“We’re not in the apple game to win prizes, but it’s pretty fantastic when we do!” he goes on. “We’re enormously proud of our wins in 2022. It means that others can see the intense energy and deep enthusiasm we each have for what we do, and that we’re making a difference – disrupting the snack category offshore and offering the convenience and nutritional value of a crisp, sweet and small New Zealand apple.”
Looking ahead to 2023, Mark says Rockit is thrilled to be continuing its partnership with Global Ambassador Kane Williamson, and delighted to be back on the roster of the many trade shows and events which have returned since borders reopened earlier this year.
Mark says he and his team are entering the Christmas season with a lot to be proud and grateful for, and he’s very thankful for the enormous effort of every one of Rockit’s investors, advisers, growers, board members, staff, business partners, collaborators and customers,” concludes Mark. “Every single person has worked incredibly hard at producing, distributing and marketing a totally unique branded offering, unlike anything else on shelves anywhere across the globe – and we’re only going bigger and better next year.
“Ready. Set. Rockit is our continued theme for 2023 – we are and we will!”