Dr Bernie Crosby (ONZM) & Kaye Crosby (ONZM)
For service to Food
Bernie and Kaye Crosby established what is now the multi-million-dollar Waikato-based international company Prolife Foods, from a garage in Hamilton’s Darley Street in 1984. Kaye initially juggled administration with caring for two young children while Bernie weighed, packaged and sold nuts to health food shops.
Three years later, they had three employees and had begun to diversify into hospitality supplies. In 1993, they developed the Alison's Pantry brand with the backing of chef Alison Holst and in 2008, bought Mother Earth from Cadbury. The business progressively established or acquired other brands such as Value Pack and Donovan’s, supplying major retailers and supermarkets in Australasia, Asia, Middle East and the United States. Headquartered in Hamilton, Prolife Foods has since grown its annual turnover to around $300 million, and its people to 1500 staff and contractors.
A key turning point for the company and the business life of Bernie and Kaye was when Bernie participated in The Icehouse’s Owner Manager Programme in 2003 and 2004. An Auckland-based business support group aimed at helping entrepreneurs develop their skills and identify business opportunities, The Icehouse course was instrumental in enabling Bernie and Kaye to properly plan and grow the capability of Prolife, so that the business could compete successfully overseas.
In the course of the programme, Bernie met The Icehouse founder David Irving and asked him to Chair his company. Over the 12 years of his chairmanship Prolife grew its capability to compete strongly internationally. The next key appointment was Andrew Smith as CEO, an appointment that has been very successful to the present day. The board is now led by former PwC CEO Bruce Hassall, and management comprises a skilled team for handling Prolife’s international growth.
Bernie subsequently joined the board of The Icehouse from July 2012 to December 2014 and has continued to have a close association with the organisation. In 2015, to acknowledge the benefit that Prolife Foods had gained from The Icehouse Programme the Crosby’s donated $100,000 to kick-start a scholarship fund to encourage other businesses to participate in one of The Icehouse programmes. Bernie is also a member of the Ice Angels – an angel investment network that was founded by The Icehouse in 2003. Its objective is to connect high-potential start-up ventures with willing investors in order to support the success of emerging New Zealand companies. Bernie and Kaye have also invested in various startup investment funds of The Icehouse.
In 2013 Bernie and David founded CELF, a community leadership programme backed by The University of Waikato, formed as a catalyst for bringing together the separate silos of private, public and social enterprise in the Waikato thereby enabling a stronger more connected Waikato regional community. This initiative has proved itself on the ground and can be expected to be a key part of the Waikato in years to come. While Bernie and Kaye both remain active on the board of Prolife Foods, they are spending increasing amounts of time on their philanthropic interests.
In 2005 Bernie was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and, in 2013, Bernie and Kaye Crosby established the Neuro Research Charitable Trust (NRCT) with the aim of raising $1 million over five years for research by the Centre for Brain Research. NRCT have proudly raised more than $1.4m and fundraising continues in the quest for a cure for Parkinson’s.
Other philanthropic activities have included the Waikato Magic Netball Team, the MESH Sculpture Trust and Hamilton Gardens, sponsorship of the Coromandel Rescue Helicopter Hanger as well as numerous educational and recreational grants to community organisations.
In 2014, Bernie and Kaye Crosby were recognised in the New Year’s Honours with the awarding of Officer of New Zealand Order of Merits (ONZM) for their services to business and philanthropy. Bernie has also been conferred with an Honorary Bachelor of Business Studies from Waikato Institute of Technology in 2010, awarded Distinguished Fellow of the Institute of Directors in 2011, an honorary doctorate by the University of Waikato in 2013 and was the inaugural laureate of the Waikato Business Hall of Fame.