The New Zealand Herald - Wednesday Aug 14, 2013
Small business: Exporting - Kiwi Organics
Bridget and Mike Parker of Kiwi Organics, a third generation, 22 year old certified organic farm in the world class fertile soils of the Uawa district in Tolaga Bay.
It is mainly a vertically integrated business growing, processing and exporting gluten free and certified organic corn and maized-based products as well as sheep and beef. Its milled products are distributed in NZ and Australia but also throughout Asia via their distributor Ceres Enterprises and a number of other customers who further manufacture it into finished products.
Approximately 50 per cent of its corn (maize) and popcorn will end up somewhere overseas as an egg, milk powder, baby food, snacks, bread, pizza base or cereal.
What is your company's story that you are telling to overseas customers?
We are a third generation family owned business and have been Certified Organic for more than 20 years. We cater to customers who are educated and care about the big picture - they want healthy, sustainable, GMO free, gluten free and traceable food. Kiwi Organics products deliver on these demands for our consumers throughout the Pacific Rim - Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Australia and China.
Kiwi Organics products are grown in some of the most fertile soils in the world and we take responsibility for the whole process, from growing the seed to delivering the final high quality product which is safe and meets the highest standards. Our products are Bio Gro Certified, Asure Quality Certified, USDA/NOP Certified and EU Certified.
How have your found your overseas customers and how have you identified key markets?
We have travelled a lot and done a lot of hard work. We attend food shows both as customers and exhibitors to get the feel of a nation. We have done this throughout NZ as well as Australia, Korea, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Denmark and London.
Often we send small quantities for early sampling. We listen to comments, ask questions and process the exact needs of the customer.
We are big fans of connecting online. We have a website that is visited by many customers www.kiwiorgancs.com and we are accessible on Facebook and LinkedIn. And we're constantly on email and phone.
What countries are your biggest exports?
Australia are great to deal with. They have big companies dealing on both sides of the ditch. The Aussies are straight up, they say it like it is and we like that!
There are three main direct manufacturers we work with: Certified Organic, Gluten Free and Both. We have met them through travel, food shows and online as well as through newspapers and magazines such as The Healthy Living Magazine, Life and Leisure and numerous Australian publications.
What is your reaction to the Fonterra situation?
We all do our best to provide a top product and so often it is somewhere in the processing that the little guy ends up suffering. It's a major reason why we have chosen to be in control of our own processes.
The food industry is a tough game. You are always aiming for perfection. But when something does go wrong, you must move quickly for all concerned.
At a personal level, the dollar possibly dropping substantially has worried us. It means we get less for our exports but on the other hand we currently have two containers of upgraded milling plant coming in from China and it has been getting dearer by the day.
Our customers were initially very concerned on different fronts: the dairy payout, the dollar, and should they stay in the game.
Do you have systems in place to follow a problem with a product batch?
Yes, we have excellent systems and continue to improve them. We are fortunate too that our Organic Certifiers Bio Gro and Asure Quality, also support us in having excellent traceability. If a problem arises we can act immediately. We have batch dates that trace every grain that is sold. We are continually monitoring the quality of our product.
What other export markets are you targeting in the future?
Australia is a vast country with a lot of opportunity yet for us. The Pacific Rim is close, are great to deal with and the Free Trade options opening are really making it accessible for us and great to do business.
Trade and Enterprise have run some great courses in conjunction with BNZ who have provided great technical and financial support including an Icehouse Achieving Business Growth Workshop. It's great to have an understanding bank manager when you are expanding into new territories. We are also working with Katabolt to strengthen our export strategy so we can continue to grow in the future.