Hawke’s Bay’s food sector is massive. From orchards, farms and vineyards, to processors and packhouses, to markets (in our neighbourhoods and overseas), to restaurants, cafes and bars … and through to the Port. ‘Farm to plate’ is the shorthand term.
Much of this activity takes place ‘behind the counter’, involving an army of players with an incredible range of world-class skills and roles, mostly invisible to Hawke’s Bay consumers. Their company names are not typically seen on our menus, shop fronts, or store shelves.
Here is a sampling of the ‘lesser known’ members of the team that delivers the food and beverages that Hawke’s Bay’s consumers and our overseas customers delight in consuming.
WineWorks Hawke’s Bay was started in 1995 by local Tim Nowell-Usticke, who is still passionate about enabling the local wine industry to add value to the primary product of grapes and turning them into high-value branded product that sits on restaurant tables, shelves and cellars throughout the world.
Since founding the Hawke’s Bay bottling plant, two more facilities have been started in Marlborough and their newest facility in Auckland.
“Hawkes Bay’s wineries trust WineWorks to do the final step in the chain of winemaking, working hard to package, store and distribute our clients’ wine” says WineWorks’ Steve White.
“After all, the winemakers have lovingly crafted the vineyard’s terroir from which the grapes grow into wine for the world to enjoy. Therefore, WineWorks need to have people and industrial processes available that can be trusted to bottle this precious product.”
WineWorks’ Hawke’s Bay operation can fill up to 850 dozen bottles per hour and will bottle about 1.5 million dozen in the coming season. Combining all three plants’ output they expect to fill 11.5 million dozen, with total capacity for even more … That’s a lot of wine!
The diverse range of crops grown commercially on the fertile plains around Hastings, Napier, Waipawa and Waipukurau includes apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries, carrots, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, sweet corn, maize, barley, wheat, peas, beans, beetroot … and the list goes on.
Although the crops are diverse, the characteristics of the Hawke’s Bay plains that allow them all to grow well are the same: fertile well-drained soil, sunshine hours and water.
Of course, the water doesn’t always come in the volume that crops need and during the life-cycle stages when it is critical. Enter companies like Bay Irrigation, WaterForce, Irrigation Services HB and ThinkWater. Pumps and irrigation equipment are in use the length and breadth of Hawke’s Bay applying the water where and when it is needed and in precise applications to avoid waste.
“Keeping the irrigation plant and equipment going through summer is essential as only a few lost days at a crucial time can mean the difference between a profitable crop or a loss. Horticulture and agriculture are a major engine of the Hawke’s Bay economy but, without water, on time, in the right place and in the right quantity, that engine is at risk” says Bay Irrigation’s director Paul Singer.
Future Products Group (FPG)
The letters ‘FPG’ are perhaps known to thousands of Napier commuters driving along Prebensen Drive past the company’s Onekawa headquarters every day. But many will be unaware what the letters stand for, or what they do.
Future Products Group builds premium temperature-controlled food and drink display cabinets – the type you see in supermarkets, fast-food outlets and cafes.
“Retailers and service providers trust FPG to help them deliver a great food experience to their customers and consumers. Three of our key differentiators are to deliver solutions that hold food safely at compliant temperatures, to offer the best lifetime value, and to stand by everything we sell for its lifetime,” says Susan White, FPG’s global marketing director.
More than 90% of FPG’s cabinets are exported to Australia, Asia, Middle East, the UK and Europe. ‘Isoform’ is their latest cabinet innovation – sleek black cabinet frames with bright lighting to present food and drinks exceptionally well.
“The Bay is a small place and you are only as good as your last job, so quality is important if we want to be here in another 30 years.”
SHANE KERRISK | DSK ENGINEERING
Hawke’s Bay grows more produce than any human could possibly manually process at once.
Fortunately DSK Engineering has been designing, manufacturing and maintaining food plant and equipment in Hawke’s Bay for nearly 30 years.
In that time they have worked on hundreds of processing lines and built strong relationships with their clients by working with them to provide reliable, efficient solutions.
Whether it’s massive multi-nationals like McCain and Kraft Heinz (Wattie’s), or small ‘local’ operations, DSK helps keep production rolling. From stainless steel wine storage tanks to meat processing, automated canned food lines, to robotic pallet packers.
“The Bay is a small place and you are only as good as your last job, so quality is important if we want to be here in another 30 years,” DSK Engineering’s owner/managing director Shane Kerrisk says.
None of Hawke’s Bay’s fantastic food production could occur without the region’s gorgeous climate. But the weather can be a blessing and a curse for HB growers.
Frosts, rain and hail can damage produce and disrupt planting or harvesting. And weather conditions need to be just right for other operations like spraying, so growers’ eyes are constantly on the skies, the weather maps and the forecasts.
With over 20 years’ experience in the New Zealand weather industry, James Morrison started Weatherstation seven years ago with only four Hawke’s Bay clients.
Now he provides reports, services and forecasts, including frost alerts, to wineries and growers via emails and text messages for growers from Gisborne to Otago.
“We are transitioning over to a web-based system over the next few months. I take lots of phone calls, though. Personal interaction is really important,” James says.
“Our core business is frost forecasting during spring and autumn, however we also provide forecasts that cover rain/high humidity weather events and wind coverage for spraying.”
Weatherstation collects data from its stations around Hawke’s Bay and uses a range of criteria to pick the nights where frost risk is highest. Their stations collect temperature, wind and humidity data at vine/tree height but also at 10-12 metres. The higher observations allow them to analyze temperature layers above the vineyards and orchards under certain conditions, providing valuable accuracy to growers.
Thirsty? You’re in luck. Already world-renowned for its produce and wines for some time, Hawke’s Bay is becoming a producer of quality beers, too!
WilliamsWarn have established themselves as producers of world-class brewing equipment and ingredients since they launched their first of its kind Brewmaster all-in-one nano-brewery in 2014, with their Brewkeg range following two years later.
Their main warehouse in Hastings is where all their products are assembled and dispatched and they are currently supplying distributors in France, India, Denmark, the United Kingdom and United States.
Their 10 litre Brewkeg allows for both home brewer use as well as commercial application, with scalable options all the way through to a 150 litre size, which is specifically designed for small batch commercial brewing.
WilliamsWarn have also developed a Keg Washer for cleaning standard D-Type pub kegs, so rather than investing thousands of dollars into an automated keg washer, breweries and hospitality clients can quickly and easily clean and sterilise kegs ready for the next brew.
A recent focus on sustainability has seen a new venture pop up with the possibility of re-usable kegs to be used in bars and cafes for a number of products currently supplied in plastic bottles.
Waipak NZ Ltd manufactures plastic packaging such as PET & HDPE bottles.
“We created Waipak NZ Ltd to help innovative bottle fillers in NZ and Australia. We manufacture all products either from raw resin or recycled chip form. With a large range of preform weights and sizes to choose from, you can choose a bottle shape of your own to create your unique stamp in the market. This opens up amazing flexibility to produce custom bottle designs with a lower capital cost for our customers” says Dan Crawshaw, Waipak’s general manager.
“Our ambition is to create a world where all recycled plastic items can be turned into a saleable product and plastic waste is a valuable resource.”
DAN CRAWSHAW | WAIPAK’S GENERAL MANAGER
“Our ambition is to create a world where all recycled plastic items can be turned into a saleable product and plastic waste is a valuable resource. Since August 2019 we made the commitment to internally recycle 100% of our internal plastic waste and have since started taking waste from other recycle streams.”
Some of Waipak’s developments see the recycled life of plastic bottles extend out across other industries, including old milk bottles reground and reused for yellow safety caps and old juice containers and PET bottles shredded and re-molded into supports for reinforcing bars on construction sites.
Freeze Dried Foods
Once just the food of astronauts and trampers, freeze-dried food has grown in popularity, scale and options.
Hastings-based Freeze Dried Foods designs and builds its own unique continuous freeze driers that they use in their Hastings factory to process a large range of products for customers.
They freeze dry vegetables like green peas, sweet corn, green beans; fruit such as apples and kiwifruit; and meat and dairy products from lamb, beef and venison to fish and yoghurt.
FDF are the largest freeze-drying company in the southern hemisphere and their technology allows them to freeze dry products at scale and at globally competitive pricing. They employ 85 people and the company operates 24/7, 360 days a year.
“Due to the capacity of the plant, over 95% of the products we produce goes for export,” says Austen Chittock, director of Freeze Dried Foods
While using a method of production considered at the at the top end of preservation techniques and historically expensive, Freeze Dried Foods is getting some equally top end results: “We are experiencing significant growth in the demand for freeze dried products world-wide, with growth of 30% plus per year,” Austen says.
“Due to the capacity of the plant, over 95% of the products we produce goes for export.”
AUSTEN CHITTOCK | DIRECTOR OF FREEZE DRIED FOODS
From growing, through post-harvest to export, produce software specialist Snap offers modern solutions to help meet the increasing traceability and compliance demands of global markets.
‘snapGrowing’ provides tools from financial forecasting to orchard mapping, compliance record keeping and staff management to assist growers to meet their GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) commitments.
‘snapPacking’ continues traceability from the orchard through packing and storage to ensure fruit is fit for its destination – evaluating over 1,290 requirements for each apple with current volumes exceeding 6.5 million carton equivalents per year.
‘snapSales’ enables exporters to distribute over $150 million in sales back to New Zealand growers each year. Additionally, Snap software has been working at an industry level for over 20 years and supporting NZ Apples and Pears Incorporated with a range of tools used by all operators in the pip-fruit industry.
New Zealand Frost Fans
When frosts are forecast many horticulturalists use frost fans (the windmill-looking towers you will often see) to keep the air moving over their orchards and fields, preventing the icy air from settling on and damaging their crops.
New Zealand Frost Fans CEO Steve Haslett turned the previously small, cottage industry he purchased in 2007 into the rapidly growing, successful exporter it is today, whilst retaining its New Zealand manufacturing base.
Steve surrounded himself with smart people to design, manufacture and market their FrostBoss range of Frost Fans. Significant input from a former Team New Zealand America’s Cup Research Engineer, Richard Karn, saw the launch of the FrostBoss C49 (4-blade) Frost Fan in 2009, which has grown in popularity to become the best-selling Frost Fan in New Zealand and Australia.
“Think global, act local” is Steve’s motto. “Hawke’s Bay still makes sense for us. We have a fantastic workforce and the Bay is a great place to live. Many Omahu Road neighbours supply inputs, such as machining, engineering, laser cutting and electrical components. The wider Hawke’s Bay region supplies specialty services like galvanizing and fabrication of tanks and engine cabinets. For exports, we ship the machines in 40-foot containers through the nearby Port of Napier.”
Test your food IQ
So, as you can see, there is a lot that goes on ‘behind the Counter’ to get Hawke’s Bay’s quality food and drink from our producers to your family’s plates.
Here are a few more names to test your Hawke’s Bay food IQ. Can you identify what these companies do: GreenMountFood, Haden & Custance, Cedenco, Star Food Service, TFE, Epicurean, Apollo, Fern Ridge, StockX, Stevenson & Taylor.
And we’ve just scratched the surface here.
Whether directly or indirectly, the region’s food industry encompasses thousands of individuals and hundreds of companies, all with the same goal in mind: to bring you the best of Hawke’s Bay!