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Jack packs a punch in the avocado industry
Jack packs a punch in the avocado industry


As a marine engineer, Jack Crozier was away at sea a lot, but he was always keen to get back to his avocado orchard at Wright’s Rd, Aongatete, 18km from Katikati in the Bay of Plenty.

He had got into the industry because he thought it would need less management time than other production crops, but he soon turned it into a full-time commitment that has enabled him to leave an indelible stamp on the industry.

“We had started planting avocados in 1979 along with a bit of kiwifruit, but after a bad year in the 80s we pulled out the kiwifruit and put in more avocados, realising that avocados needed good land too.”

He left the sea for a job as an Apata avocado manager 15 years ago, and after three years felt the time was right to strike out on his own. “I thought I had a brilliant crop coming up so I gave Apata six-months’ notice – then by March I had no job and no fruit!”

In response, he started Avo Asset Management with his oldest son Damon and between them they now manage 13 orchards in the Bay of Plenty and the Coromandel.

“There’s more work to growing avocados than people realise. The more time and money spent on an orchard the more successful you’re going to be. You can’t just retire – there’s always work to be done on an orchard. At some of the ones I manage the owners do some of the work and we do the rest. It’s working out successfully and the trees are cropping well. I spend more time on other people’s orchards than my own.”

Jack also installs frost-protection and irrigation systems, having used his engineering skills to upgrade his own orchard, which soon led to approaches from orchardists wanting Jack to sort out their sites as well.

“A couple of companies do the necessary design work and I do the installation with Damon. Damon is also picking avocados from October to February with a couple of other guys.”

Jack has been in the Primor Produce camp since ever since Primor went into the avocado business, having first met Primor chief executive John Carroll about 25 years ago at a field day Jack hosted.

“In those days, everyone was packing their own avocados themselves. We decided to build an avocado packhouse. Being an engineer, I built a grader system and we were up and away – we packed all our own fruit and anyone one else’s who came along.

“It was the start of great things. One Sydney wholesaler spotted our packing stamp on the export boxes, which all looked the same then, and said we should have our own boxes because our packing stood out from the rest. We started using a purple-and-white-striped box as Skylark Avo, which quickly became known as the purple box.”

Jack teamed up with Primor at that stage, having been convinced by John Carroll that the only way to make money was to be lean and mean.

“John approached me and said he would be doing things a little different than all the other companies in the industry. There would be no agents on the road – it would all be done over the phone. We’d had a constant stream of agents door-knocking and taking up our time.”

Success breeds success, and before long the business was too big for Jack and wife Bette so they sold it to Apata Coolstores (now Apata Ltd) and things have grown further under the new management. Jack remains a shareholder.

“I think it’s brilliant that Team Avocado and Primor have joined together. They represent a large part of the market and when you talk for 70-75%, other people are keen to talk with you.

“There had been a lot of cross-competition from other companies dabbling, and I think AVOCO is the solution. Both grower groups are very professional and they will work well together.

“As a grower I am really pleased. We can concentrate on what we’re doing knowing we’ll have a more positive future with AVOCO.”

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Partners: Southern Produce, Primor, Team Avocado