First Fresh persimmons

First Fresh New Zealand (First Fresh) has announced several changes to the shareholding structure of the company, following the departure of director Brian Pepper and the subsequent sale of his shares.

Grant Walsh, who replaced Pepper, has become a shareholder and director of the business with a 3 per cent share. Walsh was born and bred in Gisborne and after an extensive period overseas came back to the region with his family. Prior to joining First Fresh, Walsh was global sales manager with Rockit Apples.

“We are delighted to have Grant on board as an employee, shareholder and director,” said First Fresh chairman Kerry Wells.

“His experience, breadth of knowledge and existing relationships with key customers has meant he has been able to hit the ground running and provide immediate impact.

“Seeking replacement for Brian, who had been with First Fresh for over 22 years, dovetailed nicely with Grant’s desire to be Gisborne based and invest in a local company. From that point of view, it’s been a great win-win.”

An additional shareholding has also been acquired by MG Marketing, who now has a 39.52 per cent stake in the business.

“We have been very pleased with the performance of the company since our initial investment in late 2017,” noted Wells. “First Fresh continues to grow and its dedication to providing Gisborne growers with an all-encompassing service that delivers better yield, improved quality and better orchard gate returns strongly aligns with MG’s principles. Citrus is a cornerstone of the MG business.”

In addition, Ian Albers, managing director and Phil Croy, director have increased their shareholding to 28 per cent and 8.23 per cent respectively while former First Fresh chief financial officer, Wi Reedy, remains a 21.25 per cent shareholder.

“Phil and I remain absolutely committed to First Fresh,” said Albers. “We recognise that it’s been a tough couple of years for growers with the cost and supply of labour being at the forefront of that, however, other costs and the ever-increasing demands around compliance are also putting strain on grower incomes.

“We strongly believe that the First Fresh team can deliver better outcomes for growers through our ‘tree to trolley’ range of services.

“We see innovation, technology and new variety management as being some of the key drivers to improving orchard performance and the First Fresh leadership group comprising Ian, Phil, Grant, Mathew Bannister, Matthew Carter and Rachael Prenter are working hard on strategies around some of these initiatives,” Albers concluded.