The New Zealand Ice Cream Association
The New Zealand Ice Cream Association

1971 - 1990


In 1932, the Apex Ice Cream Co. Ltd was established by George Gourley and C. McFadden. Gourley had worked for Perfection Ice Cream since 1928, so had some experience of the industry.

Apex started operations in a tiny factory, with less than 600 square feet floorspace, in Peterborough St., Christchurch. Equipment was an old vertical ice cream churn, and a single vat used for pasteurising, cooling and chilling the mix.

The original Apex factory in Peterborough St                                                  The original Apex factory in Peterborough St..
                                                  - The Frostee Digest, NZICA archives.

In their first year, they sold 7,000 gallons of ice cream; in the second year, 20,000 gallons, outgrowing the building. Rather than sell to shops, they decided to employ salesmen to sell direct at fairs, picnics, outdoor functions. They also supplied ice cream sandwiches direct to fruit markets, offices and factories.

The company had a strong community involvement from the very start, as reported in The Press on 12 November 1934:

The sixth bicycle hike excursion held under the auspices of the Apex Ice Cream Company was held yesterday, and 1000 cyclists made the trip from Victoria Square to the Pleasant Point Domain. The procession was headed by Mrs O'Sullivan, the "grandmother cyclist" and was ended by the bicycle ambulance lorry, loaned by Mr R Mutton (Lyttelton), which found useful work to do. The presence in the afternoon of the Kew Brighton Municipal Band, which played an enjoyable programme, attracted further visitors, and there must have been 2000 present when the programme of sports was carried out.

In 1935 Apex took out a lease on part of the Avon Butter Company premises at 25 Manchester St., a ten-fold increase in space. However it was the Depression, cash was short, and George and a friend had to box and pour the concrete floors for the freezers themselves, while running the business.

                         Apex Ice Cream advertisement, 1936.

In February 1936, Apex Ice Cream operated a stall at a special air pageant at Wigram aerodrome, held to raise funds for the widow of famous WWI air ace M.C. "Mac" McGregor, who had been killed in a flying accident at Rongotai a week or so earlier.

Apex now took on the retail trade, but with most shops not being able to afford freezers, the company decided to purchase and re-sell their own commercial refrigerators on time-payment. This meant financing, and they decided to convert the business from a private to a public liability company.

New equipment was also purchased, a 40-quart Emery Thompson Brine Churn, and an 80-quart Cherry Burrell.

Until 1939, Apex used ammonia refrigeration compressors, but in the early war years, converted to fully-automatic Freon equipment.

                 The second Apex factory in Manchester St.
                 - The Frostee Digest, NZICA archives.

In 1938, famous Canadian wrestler and Olympian Earl McCready (pictured below) visited Apex, and endorsed the company's product as "a marvellous training food for athletes". In one lunch at Apex, he is reported to have eaten 13 sixpenny cartons on end, finishing off with a super-size cone of strawberry ice cream 'for dessert'!

                                                               Earl McCready enjoying some Apex Ice Cream.
                                                              - The Frostee Digest, NZICA archives.

                 Apex Ice Cream enamel sign, 1940s?
- longwhitekid.

During the Second World War, with petrol rationing in place, and to reduce delivery mileage, Apex and its two main Christchurch competitors, Perfection and Top Notch, agreed to divide the city up into three territories.

Apex made the news on 25th January 1943 when one of its heavy trucks, driven by a Mr F. Fisher, collided with a tram and overturned on the western line in Colombo St., "seriously disrupting the late afternoon rush".

In 1944, Apex Director and distinguished military surgeon, Brigadier P. A. Ardagh, C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., of Christchurch, died on active service in England. Ardagh had attended Lieutenant-General Sir Bernard Freyberg when he was wounded, introduced new front line blood transfusion methods to the New Zealand Division, and at one time had been senior medical officer of the whole of the British forces in Italy.

1947 - Apex Ice Cream set up an 80-quart Vogt ice cream churn on their stand at the New Zealand Industries Fair held in Christchurch, and wowed the crowds by producing ice cream for four hours a day, filling sixpenny cartons at the rate of 1800/hr.

                                                  Apex Ice Cream, NZ Industries Fair, Christchurch, 1947.
- Frostee Digest.

In 1954 Apex built a new factory from scratch at 100 Durham Street (the corner of Durham St and Sandyford St, Sydenham), described here in The Frostee Digest, December 1954 issue:

Today the Apex organisation, with George Gourley still guiding its destinies, is installed in its beautiful new factory at 100 Durham Street, Christchurch. It is without doubt one of the finest food factories in the Dominion. Built in reinforced concrete and steel and finished outside in an eau-de-nil cement colour, it presents a very pleasing appearance. When the vistor steps in the door he is greeted with a highly-polished cedar vestibule. The executive offices are finished in beautifully grained New Zealand plywoods to dado height. Above this, the walls and ceiling are in fibrous plaster and painted in the modern trend of contrasting colours. The general effect is very pleasing.

Behind the main offices is the general dining-room, finished in pastel colours. Attached to the dining-room is an up-to-date kitchenette with stainless steel fixtures and all necessary equipment. A small ambulance room has been built and, should any of the staff take ill or have an accident, they are assured the best possible attention.

                 The third Apex factory at 100 Durham St.
                 - The Frostee Digest, NZICA archives.

The pasteurising and manufacturing rooms are totally enclosed and are both tiled dado height with peach-coloured glazed tiles, and above this all walls are plastered and finished in pleasing pastel shades.

All compressors are housed in a separate room. There are two freezing chambers, each 40 feet by 20 feet. These rooms run between the manufacturing and the despatch, and are each controlled by two 5-h.p. Freon Compressors which have no difficulty in keeping temperature down to minus 10 degrees at all times. There is a general store room of 3000 square feet. The despatch department has plenty of room for their requirements, and for the garaging of the company's fleet of vehicles. There is also an up-to-date garage workshop.

                                                               Apex Jaffa Cream Bomb wrapper, 1950s?
                                                              - Serendipity Antiques, Timaru.

                 Three of Apex's directors in 1954 - Cyril Sturge, C. McFadden, and George Gourley.
- The Frostee Digest, NZICA archives.

                Cinema advertisement (glass slide) for Apex, circa 1950.
                - David Peterson.

                 Apex delivery van, Mackay St., Greymouth, ca. 1950.
- West Coast New Zealand History.

Some time in the late 50s, Bob Rodgers joined the company - he had previously run a family-owned business, the Zenith Milk Bar and ice cream manufacturing company, Stafford St., Timaru.

After George Gourley passed away in 1958, his son Winston ran the company for a period, and when he left the industry, Jim Campbell took over the management.

1959 - Apex took over another Christchurch manufacturer, Everest Ice Cream.

                 Apex Ice Cream Co. point-of-sale marketing material, ca. 1960?
                 - Owen Norton collection, via Shona McCahon.

                 Apex Ice Cream Co. point-of-sale marketing material, ca. 1960?
                 - Owen Norton collection, via Shona McCahon.

On 1 July 1960, Apex took over one of its main Christchurch competitors, Top Notch Delicacies Ltd..

Later that year, Apex itself was taken over by General Foods Corporation (Tip Top Ice Cream). Bob Rodgers became Tip Top's South Island Manager.

General Foods announced that Apex's factory would be expanded and upgraded to become Tip Top's main South Island manufacturing base.

For a brief period, Tip Top co-branded its Christchurch-produced ice cream as Tip Top Apex.

             Tip Top Apex Ice Cream Christmas Cakes advertisement, Press, 16 December 1961.
             Note Chocolate Hokey Pokey flavour!.
              - PapersPast.

In 1962, General Foods purchased land on Blenheim Road to build a brand new factory, which eventually opened in 1968, and the old Apex factory was closed. The Apex brand appears to have been discontinued some time around 1963.

More about Apex at longwhitekid ...

- Special thanks to Owen Norton and Shona McCahon for permission to reproduce the images in this article from Owen's collection.

Thanks to David Peterson for permission to reproduce the glass slide cinema advertisements.

References and related sites:

Longwhitekid - history of Peter Pan, Tip Top, Meadow Gold, Wall's, Hokey Pokey, and much more:

NZ Ice Cream Manufacturers Assn. archives, and "Frostee Digest" journals, 1943-1972.

Papers Past (National Library of New Zealand digitised newspapers database):

BackBack to Ice Cream Brands from the Past.

George Gourley

George Gourley
                            George Gourley
                                    ? - 1958

George started his career in ice cream when he joined the Perfection Ice Cream Co. in 1928.

From the beginning he showed a strong community spirit, donating product to good causes such as children's health camps, sponsoring and fund-raising, organising community events such as an annual bicycle excursion from Victoria Square to Pleasant Point involving 1000 cyclists, and running annual dances and picnics for Apex staff and their families and customers.

George was involved with the sports of cycling (President of the Avon Amateur Cycling Club) and motor cycle racing.

George was also very active in the ice cream industry, serving on the NZICA Executive Committee for 10 years, culminating in two years as President of the Dominion Association. He was made a Life Member of the NZICA.

George passed away in 1958, in Timaru.

Help Us Tell the Story

Apex Ice Cream enamel sign, 1930s?
- Nick Boblea, via longwhitekid.

If you can fill in any gaps in our history of Apex ice cream, please drop us a line:

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