Foodies band together in tough times

When Tesh Randall got Raglan Food Co off to an accidental start in 2014, selling handmade jars of coconut yoghurt from home, she didn’t know who to ask for advice and support with running a food business. “We didn’t have any previous experience in the FMCG space, it all felt quite overwhelming at times!”

After meeting other food business owners at expos and trade shows, she could see that many others were also ‘doing it alone’.

So she decided to form a group of foodie friends; fellow Kiwi business owners in the food & beverage space with aligned values.

Brands like Goodbuzz kombucha, Yum Granola, Bennetto chocolate, Chia Sisters drinks, Pic’s peanut butter, and Little Lato icecream were all keen to take part.

“We’ve had one or two getaways every year since 2015 – we pick a new location in New Zealand each time, so we can experience the local food scene.” The crew of 20-30 food business owners head off for a weekend together, and use the opportunity to share tips, help solve each other’s current challenges, and find ways to team up on projects.

All sorts of interesting collaborations have come out of these connections, Randall says. “We’ve teamed up on products – for example, releasing an icecream made by Little Lato using our coconut yoghurt, and topped with Yum Granola.”

They’ve swapped resources; recommending interns to each other, using the same demo staff for in-store tastings, and sharing the cost of stands at expos.

Following three postponements due to COVID, this year’s getaway was finally held in Nelson in February, where they stayed at the sustainably-designed Pear Orchard Lodge, and visited the factories of local producers like Pic’s peanut butter, Yum Granola, and Chia Sisters drinks.

“It’s so helpful to learn from others and see how they do things – we all came home with heaps of new ideas!”

Food businesses around New Zealand have been feeling the pressure the past two years, with hospitality sales drastically reduced, increased costs due to freight pressures, and staff off isolating.

“At a time like this it’s more important than ever to find ways to help and support each other,” says Randall. “We’re stronger together.”

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