EY’s NZ Entrepreneur of the Year is … Craig Hickson

Craig Hickson (centre) receives his award for 2015 New Zealand EY Entrepreneur of the Year
Craig Hickson (centre) receives his award for 2015 New Zealand EY Entrepreneur of the Year from (left) Dan Radcliffe, founder and managing director of International Volunteer HQ – EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2014 – and Jon Hooper, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards director

Congratulations to Progressive Meats’ founder Craig Hickson who was announced as the 2015 New Zealand EY Entrepreneur of the Year last week.

Hickson was presented with his award at a prestigious ‘yellow-carpet, black-tie’ occasion at The Langham Auckland last week.

He was the sole meat industry candidate amongst the 16 finalists announced in late July. He will now represent New Zealand and compete against over 60 national winners for the coveted title of EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year in Monte Carlo in June 2016.

The EY profile reads as follows:

Progressive by name and nature, Craig Hickson’s fresh, innovative ways have left their mark on the New Zealand agribusiness landscape.

At high school, Craig Hickson had the hankering that he would, one day, work for himself. Doing exactly what wasn’t necessarily on the agenda. At Massey University he originally signed up for a science degree. A grant from Hawke’s Bay Farmers Meat Company changed his focus to food technology as did summer employment at their plant.

After graduation he worked for the New Zealand Meat Producers Board expanding his knowledge and giving him a fuller perspective of the meat industry. To complement his food engineering qualification Craig achieved a BA in Marketing and Economics.

He was now ready to embark on his own projects looking for new business ways in what was then one of the country’s most traditional industries.

Craig saw a meaty export opportunity packing frozen lamb chops and using what was then a new ‘skin pack’ technology. His initial idea was to ‘piggy back’ his production off an already operating, and licensed, facility. He got close to signing deals with a number of parties only to see them to go to what they perceived were greener pastures.

Undaunted, Craig made contact with a Hawke’s Bay cold store business that was in the middle of its own building project. After discussions the investment syndicate agreed to build him a premise for lease adjacent to the cold store where he could run his operation and achieve synergies with a cold store operation just through the wall.

Colleagues at the Meat Board, and even a financial advisor, cautioned him about the folly of his plans. The roadside, they said, is littered with the carcases of people who have gone before you.

Ignoring the doom and naysayers, Craig and his wife launched Progressive Meats. A team of six processed frozen lamb for export. Through smart financing options, technological innovation, and building strategic relationships along the supply chain, his empire expanded.

Today it is an integrated business involved in venison, lamb and beef farming, procurement, slaughter, processing, value adding and export.

The associated companies for which Craig is a significant shareholder now employ over 2,000 people.  All of the meat produced by the group is bound for markets in France, the United Kingdom, China, the United States, Japan, the EU, Saudi Arabia, Russia, India and Hong Kong.

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