Avocado packhouse KauriPak is celebrating its 50th birthday and a change of ownership.
The family-owned company has been part of the avocado and kiwifruit scene in the Bay of Plenty since the very early days of commercialisation.
It has now merged with kiwifruit specialists Hume Pack ‘N Cool – another local company which celebrates its 30th year in business in 2021.
KauriPak founders Dorothy and Hugh Moore retain a shareholding in the new joint venture but want to concentrate on their orchards, including 25ha of kiwifruit and eight hectares of avocados.
Hugh says there is “synergy” between the two companies and being able to have permanent staff who can move from avocados to kiwifruit, depending on the season will be a huge benefit.
The change of ownership took effect on July 1, but for customers, not too much will change. Everything operates out of the same buildings and the brands and company names remain the same.
The family focus stays too.
“Hume is basically the fundamentals of a family business, with grower shareholding.”
“We were purely a family business, and we haven’t got any grandchildren or anything like that to carry on,” says Hugh.
“It would allow us to move out and recoup part of our assets and focus more on the farming and orcharding side of the business.”
Jack of all trades
The Hume’s and Moore’s go back a long way with John Hume of Katikati – an uncle of the current Hume owners being a long-serving employee.
“He retired and then worked for us for another 15 years. Just the character he was – full on, ‘she’ll be right’, and could do anything,” says Hugh.
He says being “a jack of all trades and master of none” was an essential trait in the early days of the industry.
“All those things your father taught you or your friends taught you. You knew how to pull a tractor to bits, you knew how to weld, you had to do everything. Whether you could do everything perfectly was another thing, but you knew how to do things.”
When KauriPak first started out it was with onions and tamarillos and then the kiwifruit industry started expanding. In more recent years the packhouse has carved out a niche by specialising in packing avocados.
Early days (sidehead)
He recalls the main kiwifruit drive that really got into top gear in about 1978.
Farms in Katikati and Te Puke were sold up and turned into orchards.
“Katikati went from a sleepy town that was losing the dairy company – the writing was on the wall, and it was going backwards – and then it flourished because so many people came to town. We went from about 2000 to 4000 in a short period of time.”
He says there was a steep learning curve in the kiwifruit industry, but the local fruit growers association ran field days on different orchards and the government was putting huge resources in.
“They trained people and put advisors out and some of them were the best in the world but not only that, they put out a whole lot of publications, which they don’t do today.”
“There was a tremendous amount of knowledge and resources poured into the kiwifruit industry by the government. We commercialised kiwifruit to the world.”
He says there is nothing in the horticulture sector that compares with kiwifruit and avocados also have a bright future.
“Avocados, they are going to have their ups and downs, but it is still a fruit the world wants, and I don’t see it waning or going away.”