'Credit where credit's due': Farmer behind Tip Top petition says sales deal a good one

A Taranaki farmer who launched a petition to keep Tip Top in New Zealand hands says owner Fonterra did well with the deal to sell the iconic icecream company.

Fonterra confirmed the sale of Tip Top to UK-based Froneri, owned by Nestle and R&R Ice Cream, for $380 million.

The dairy co-op is looking to slash debt by $800 million, and the sale follows a strategic review of its assets.

Fonterra farmer Mathew Herbert had hoped to keep Tip Top in farmer ownership, and launched a petition to gain support for the idea.

The Taranaki farmer said, while he was disappointed the sale was to an overseas company, he believed the deal was a good one.

Mathew Herbert was keen to see Tip Top stay in New Zealand hands,
Mathew Herbert was keen to see Tip Top stay in New Zealand hands, Photo credit: Newshub

"At the end of the day, I've got to give credit where it's due," he said. 

"You can only sell something once and Miles Hurrell and the Fonterra team have delivered a price that I don't think that anybody thought that they could get," said Herbert.

Under the deal, Fonterra will continue to supply the milk used in the icecream, and will retain ownership of the Kāpiti brand.

"One of the big attractions for Froneri is the fact that Tip Top and Kāpiti icecream both use fresh milk and cream, from New Zealand grass-fed cows," Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell said.

"We've signed an agreement with the new owners to supply milk which ensures that Fonterra farmers will continue to be part of the Tip Top story," he said.

Mathew Herbert said it was great news that Fonterra milk will continue to supply Tip Top.

"I think that we have a really great provenance story that we can tell there."

"We are probably one of the few mainstream icecream brands globally that takes fresh milk and turns it into ice cream and people really connect with that."

He said he hoped the new owner would appreciate the brand to try and keep that story for the future.

"If the new buyer can put a whole lot of money into Tip Top that Fonterra couldn't, and if they can take that Tip Top brand around the world and develop it more, here in New Zealand as well, then that's great."

"It's a shame that we didn't have the opportunity to do that, I think was a missed opportunity for us, but Fonterra's found itself in the situation that it's in and the new management and board have done the best that they can with that."

He said it was vital that there was a solid return coming back to farmers.

"Fonterra is there to keep farmers profitable, it's owned by farmers and we need them to do that, so selling down some assets was, unfortunately, the only way that they could do that."

Production will stay at Tip Top's factory in Mt Wellington in Auckland, and the current management team will stay on.