Te Puke based Kiwi Produce has come a long way since Geoff and Nicky Oliver raised their family of four daughters in a small pack house on their orchard 25 years ago. After a further 14 extensions, today their pack house operations is one the country’s most innovative and successful, packing over two million trays equivalent of locally grown fruit a year and employing 60 staff at the peak of the season.
Part of Geoff and Nicky’s success is the way in which they manage their very committed and dedicated team, many of whom are very long serving. Both treat all of their staff as part of the family.
Proof of its reputation in the billion-dollar kiwifruit industry is Kiwi Produce’s performance in the highly competitive Zespri Industry Challenge – an annual event similar to the “Top Town” format. Kiwi Produce has won first place four times in eight years and are currently reigning champions again in 2011.
In small steps at first, then accelerating to meet fruit production expansion in the Bay of Plenty, Kiwi Produce has gone from pre-packing by hand to the latest sophisticated methods and machinery for grading, sorting, labeling and packing.
“Our philosophy is based on working closely with our regular customers and investing in new pack house equipment and technology.”
“It always comes back to relationships and maximizing grower returns,” Geoff says.
Geoff, full of ideas and concepts for packing systems, has pioneered many of the advances himself and is justifiably proud of what has been achieved.
“A big part of our growth has been our ability to handle a diverse range of produce,” he says.
“We currently work with all types of kiwifruit, as well as kiwi berries, avocadoes, citrus crops, tamarilloes, passionfruit and other subtropicals. We are currently working with Zespri with their two new gold varieties and a new sweet green variety.
“All told we provide about 70 different pack types with varying crate and tray sizes and weights,” Geoff said.
Some of the throughput is from the nine orchards owned or part owned and operated by the Oliver Family Trust.
Around two-thirds of the produce handled through the Packhouse is for export, with strict quality control and compliance regulations in place to meet international and domestic requirements.
Daily domestic contract work and daily sales, along with grower liaison is coordinated by Tracey Jamieson.
The battle to control the invasive PSA disease is presently the kiwifruit industry’s biggest challenges to be overcome, with pack houses playing an integral role in the process.
Kiwi Produce are MG Marketing’s largest Kiwifruit and Feijoa grower/packer and bulk of their fruit goes to the various MG Marketing branches.
Loose and punneted kiwifruit products from the pack house are supplied to MG’s subsidiary company in Australia, the LaManna Group.
Jeff is a member of Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated and keeps a keen eye on developments across all aspects of fruit growing, processing and distribution.
With members of his family he is also actively involved in community affairs and enjoys nothing more on his occasional day off than to go fishing.
All in all, Kiwi Produce is an undoubted success story that says much about the Oliver’s’ passion for the industry and wanting making it work for everyone involved.