Mike and Mary Bennett consider themselves pretty typical New Zealanders. They admit they are both a bit overweight, along with 65% of Kiwi adults who are in the same category or obese, and Mike has type two diabetes. With New Zealand’s high obesity levels many Kiwi adults are at risk of developing the disease.
The Bennetts came up with the idea for their Wunderbites muesli bar range when Mike was diagnosed with type two diabetes. “That was a real shock,” says Mike, “so we started to pay attention to what we were eating and learned a few things along the way, particularly the 10:10 rule.”
“Health experts say that, if you want to watch your weight (the main risk factor for diabetes) and control your blood glucose levels (the main problem with diabetes), a simple rule is to choose foods that have under 10% sugar and under 10% fat as well as a high level of fibre, a low level of saturated fat, a low glycaemic index (GI) and low sodium (salt),” Mike adds.
“To follow the 10:10 rule, we had to learn how to read a nutritional information panel (under 10% means under 10g in the 100g column), but we found that quite hard,” says Mary. “On some products, the nutrition information is hard to find, hard to read and hard to understand.”
“We’ve developed the Wunderbites range because we couldn’t find some products we were looking for. For instance, we wanted to find a satisfying snack bar that meets the 10:10 rule, but it didn’t exist ... until now,” says Mike. “Wunderbites are the only mainstream snack bars that meet the 10:10 rule, and our packs provide clear, simple nutrition information.”
With no previous experience in food production or retail and armed with the FSANZ nutrition panel calculator, the couple started experimenting in their home kitchen about five years ago. Food scientist David Knoef from Formula Foods in Christchurch was brought on board to develop the bars, and after much nutritional testing and trialling, the range is now handmade by the team at Montana Bakery in Christchurch.
“We launched our product range in May at the Wellington Food Show – we won a competition for the best start-up with the prize of a free stand and signage,” says Mary.
“We’ve had a great response from customers at the Food Shows we’ve done and at in-store tastings,” adds Mike. “They’re people who are looking for healthy food options, are into sport, are watching their energy intake, have health issues or want their children to have healthy stuff in their lunchboxes and for after-school snacks.
“Customers give us great feedback too,” says Mary. “They really like how Wunderbites bars taste – Raspberry & Almond is a clear favourite – and they love the fact that the bars are made locally. They love the nutrition concept and the packaging, and people congratulate us on what we’re trying to achieve.”
The current challenge for the couple is growing the number of stores they are in. “Gary Baker at Wellington City New World and the team at Thorndon New World gave us a fantastic boost at the beginning, and we’ve expanded to 46 stores in the six months since then,” says Mike.
But the couple have their sights set higher, including expanding into breakfast cereals. “There is definitely demand for our product, even though it’s priced at the higher end of the category,” says Mike. “We’re sponsoring sporting events around the country and doing some strategic media as well as in-store tastings – all with the aim of building customer demand and persuading grocery buyers that we’re worth supporting!”
For more information visit www.wunderbites.co.nz
Nice Blocks is the brainchild of Tommy Holden and James Crow, who came up with the concept for boutique fair-trade ice blocks back in 2009.
“Tommy, burnt out on a beverage project we had been working on, suggested he wanted to make ice blocks and it developed from there. We started by making our first Nice Blocks at night in a café kitchen and selling them at local cafes and music events,” says Crow.
The company continues to grow and 2011 saw the pair set up their own production plant in Penrose, allowing for expansion and ramping up of production. This summer represents three years of flavour development for the brand and new variants have been launched for the warmer months. Raspberry Lemonade, Feijoa, Natural Cola, Chocolate and Vanilla Bean will all join old favourite Lemonade with a Dash of Lime.
“The coconut cream based offerings (Chocolate and Vanilla Bean) have great room for expansion and we expect to launch two new flavours in autumn.”
As the world’s first fair-trade certified ice blocks all of Nice Blocks’ ingredients must meet the strict fair-trade standards of ethical supply chains and removal of chemical pesticides and fertilisers from ingredients. Crow believes their fair-trade status gives them a unique point of difference from their competitors.
“No other producer in our category can say this about their products and based on overseas trends we can see that the demand for more open ingredient information will only become more important to consumers, especially parents and those responsible for buying for the family,” he says.
He attributes consumer demand and a return to the kitchen for many shoppers for the increasing popularity of artisan products.
“Products seem to have become all hype and pack-shot with very little pay-off for the customer. The benefit of the artisan industry is that smaller producers can now provide more interesting options with real personalities and stories behind them.”
While Nice Blocks have predominately concentrated on event promotion they are currently stocked in selected Wellington New World’s, Farro Fresh and Four Squares stores.
“These stores represent a great avenue for Nice Blocks at present as the mix of holiday locations and a call for more artisan options from the holiday market is great for our high-season of December through February. Supermarkets and take-home packs will no doubt become our focus as customer awareness grows and our distribution widens.”
To date their instore support has been focused around social media but this year will see the brand branch out into targeted samplings focused on their core market.
“In the ice block category no one does what we do and that’s how we tackle each day. We’re not out there trying to be the most consumer-driven or profitable for our shareholders and this really shows in the unrestrained quality and finesse in our products. It’s a market full of big players but with our lower overheads we are able to keep the product our number one focus. This means the best organic and fair-trade ingredients making our products the best on the market.”
For more information visit www.niceblocks.co.nz
After migrating to New Zealand in 2005 British expat Carole Barker missed the taste of home so much she started making authentic English pork pies for her family and close friends.
Recognising a gap in the market for old fashioned products, Barker decided to retail her pies at local farmers markets under the Mowbray Fine Foods brand. The company name pays homage to Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, widely acknowledged as the UK home of the English pork pie.
“We decided to focus on traditional English food, as baked by our family, and we have continued to utilise original tried and tested recipes passed down to us over several generations,” she says.
Mowbray pies are available in three sizes - 145gm, 310gm and 450gm – and are made using a hand operated pork pie press, before being baked and filled with an aspic jelly. They are also manufacturers of Potted Beef Spread and Chicken & Brandy Pate with plans for more traditional pie variations in the pipeline for the coming year.
“Our products differ in that we don’t cut corners or sacrifice quality for increased profit. We stick faithfully to the demands of the original recipes and use only local, top quality ingredients and methods in making them. We will not freeze our pies to give the retailer a longer ‘shelf life’ as this adversely affects the quality of the product; we prefer to supply fresh product on a weekly.”
Barker’s hard work is beginning to pay dividends and last year saw Mowbray Fine Foods take home a coveted Cuisine Artisan award. She says the recognition has been a positive experience for the relatively new company.
“It has created exposure and awareness for our products in a relatively short space of time and has opened up market sectors we would have been working towards for longer. Customers have gained confidence to try our products with the Artisan Award recognising the authenticity and quality of our English pork pie.”
Barker says the tough economic environment is partly responsible for the growth of artisan products along with the increasing recognition of authentic producers offering alternative ‘honest’ products to the consumer.
“Additionally the Artisan awards and the upsurge in farmers markets across New Zealand have brought to the forefront an awareness that there are serious contenders out there with well researched and locally produced products.”
Mowbray Fine Foods currently supply 21 New World supermarkets for Foodstuffs South Island and Wellington and are in talks with Foodstuffs Auckland.