Taiwan is one of New Zealand's leading apple markets. Hawke's Bay apple grower Phil Alison said his company had had "phenomenal" success with small red Rockit apples, sold in stylised cylindrical packaging.
He had a unique product that was different to the rest of the industry's "trade brands".
"We are in the snack business, not the apple business. The competition is chocolate bars and nuts. We have to reach directly to consumers so we spend a lot on branding and research," Alison said.
Taiwan was the company's test market because consumers there were very discerning. It had grown 10-fold in the past two years and was now the company's biggest market. It also exported to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and the United Kingdom. He envisaged big volume increases in the next five to 10 years as orchards growing the new variety came on stream.
Alison said he had wanted to shift from viewing apples as a commodity because it was not a very sustainable business model. People thought he had "rocks in his head" when he came up with the concept. He admitted to a ‘eureka" moment when he came up with the packaging idea, but he had put in the homework.
"I spent days walking supermarket aisles researching the market," he said.
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