Four gold medals for Rush Munro's in last month's national ice cream awards confirmed what Hawke's Bay people have known for more than 80 years - the company makes fine ice cream.
But Rush Munro's centre in Hastings, with a garden setting where patrons can eat their ice creams at leisure, was pretty much a Bay secret till local businessman John Bostock added it to his extensive portfolio 10 years ago.
Now Rush Munro's is available in supermarkets and cafes across most of the country, and in December the company opened a dedicated outlet in Napier's seaside suburb of Ahuriri.
"It was pretty much a Bay ice cream only but now it's widely available," Tony Stanford, commercial manager and sales manager, said.
Rush Munro's won golds for its passionfruit, blackcurrant, manuka honey and mochaccino flavours in the premium section of the awards.
"When you get the most golds of all the brands that are entered in the premium competition, that really says something," Mr Stanford said.
The company raised its sales - and its profile - by getting into Subway food outlets, but the New Zealand chain later switched to the international practice of selling smoothies.
Making up for that setback is a 78 per cent increase in sales of 1 litre packs over the past two years.
Passionfruit is the most popular of its 20 supermarket flavours. There are also three organic flavours.
The original Rush Munro, English confectioner Frederick Charles Rush Munro, arrived in Hastings in 1926 with his wife Catherine and 10 pounds.
He set up a sweet shop and began making ice cream to his own recipes, using real fruit. When the 1931 earthquake destroyed his premises he moved to the current site in Heretaunga St.
Much later Kiwi Dairies bought the business. When Mr Bostock took it over, he wanted to keep it as a Hawke's Bay- owned business, but saw the potential for dramatic growth.
Mr Stanford grew up in Hawke's Bay and clearly remembers going to Rush Munro's for treats as a lad.
He worked in Auckland as a manager for Coca Cola Amatil, and returned to the Bay as national sales manager for the Mission winery. He joined Rush Munro's three years ago.
"The key difference with our product is that it's made from a recipe that has a higher component of cream and it's made from natural ingredients," he said.
"The only thing that we add, if you look at our fruit ice creams, is actually the real fruit. There's no artificial flavours or colourings or anything added."
The company now has 10 full-time staff and 21 casual staff who work over the summer. Mr Stanford sees opportunities for further expansion.
"There's always room for growth for us," he said. "There's other sectors of the market that could purchase our product, like the hospitality sector. We also get inquiries for export; it's a matter of partnering with the right people."
copyright: NARGON - the National Association of Retail Grocers of New Zealand