Local man Phil Alison has sold the Havelock North Fruit Company (HNFC), which he founded and made famous with its Rockit apples.
It was announced yesterday that the company's name was changing to Rockit Global Limited and it would embark on strengthening its global position. HNFC acting chief executive, Austin Mortimer, becomes chief executive of the new company.
Despite the changes, Rockit Global brand manager Genevieve Beech said the company was a Hawke's Bay company and there had been no discussion about moving operations elsewhere.
She said it was the same company with the same operations and the same staff.
Chairman John Loughlin said entities associated with Pioneer Capital and Oriens Capital, New Zealand private equity growth investors, have purchased the ownership interests of the founder and former managing director Mr Alison. Details of the sale remain confidential.
"It is very positive that growth equity investors of this calibre, from outside the pip fruit industry, are recognising the tremendous potential in Rockit Global Limited and the industry," Mr Loughlin said.
He said the new shareholders had experience in growing New Zealand export businesses.
"They will contribute governance expertise and additional capital to help the company deliver on its ambitious growth plans."
Mr Loughlin acknowledged Mr Alison's contribution in recognising the potential of the fruit, then establishing and leading the business toward building the Rockit Global brand.
"We will always be greatly appreciative of the work he put into creating the international platform for the business."
The Rockit Global board of directors will include four members of the previous HNFC board: Mr Loughlin, Murray Denyer, Steve Saunders and Neil Craig. They will be joined by Oriens Capital's James Beale and Pioneer Capital's Craig Styris.
Mr Mortimer said Rockit Global was an example of a significant New Zealand success story.
"It clearly demonstrates how high-quality fruit can be positioned as a premium, value-added product through a robust brand strategy."
Over the past few years HNFC has been on a rapid international growth path.
Mr Loughlin said Rockit Global apple snacks were now grown in seven countries and sold through their highly valued international partners in 22 countries.
"With only 3 per cent of Rockit Global Limited apple snacks sold in New Zealand our sales and marketing focus is on key international markets."
Mr Mortimer believed the company was now well positioned to continue its rapid growth and capitalise on the substantial grab and go, healthy snack market.