A man who completed his PhD in physics at Oxford University and then built an international business career in the grocery sector is being presented with a Distinguished Alumni Award by the University of Waikato.
Dr Andrew Smith is CEO of Hamilton-based international company Prolife Foods.
He graduated from the University of Waikato with a Bachelor of Science in 1987 and a Master of Science with First Class Honours in Physics in 1989. In the same year he became the university’s first Rhodes Scholar, which saw him attend Oxford University to complete his doctorate.
Dr Smith spent 16 years working in consumer and grocery markets in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, for companies including Fonterra, Unilever, and Procter and Gamble. In February 2009 he was appointed CEO at Prolife Foods known for such brands as Mother Earth, Alison’s Pantry and Donovans Chocolates.
The company has expanded into Australia, Asia, the USA and Middle East and has opened a factory in Melbourne to serve the ever-growing Australasian customer base. Today, Prolife employs 1300 staff with revenue in excess of $275 million.
Dr Smith introduced a ‘War on Waste’ to Prolife Foods in 2015, an initiative to ensure the business used sustainable business methods wherever possible, encouraging staff to contribute their ideas to the programme and to take their practice to the wider community.
The University of Waikato has benefited from Dr Smith’s business knowledge; he has been a judge in business case competitions, the postgraduate Three-Minute Thesis competition and a guest speaker at graduation.
He was a founding sponsor of the Community & Enterprise Leadership Foundation (CELF), a charitable trust established by Prolife founder Bernie Crosby with David Irving and the University of Waikato to develop future Waikato leaders. Dr Smith has been a valuable contributor to the programme since its inception in 2014, sharing his knowledge and experience and acting as a mentor to participants.
He will receive his Distinguished Alumni Award on Friday 18 October, joined by ASB CEO Vittoria Shortt and SweeneyVesty founder Brian Sweeney. Former All Black player and coach Wayne Smith is also one of this year’s Distinguished Alumni, and received his award in a separate ceremony last month.