Businessman out to make splash in China

By Michele McPherson

Tauranga's Harvey Bryant is one of those friendly, unshakeable entrepreneurs.
He's been a sheep and deer farmer, a kiwifruit grower, the owner of Tauranga Hire Co, and has operated other businesses producing air freshener aerosol cans, trench-digging machinery and granite benchtops.
Now, he is close to selling pure spring water to the Chinese. The size of the China market doesn't put him off.
"I was surprised to find that their cities are more westernised than I thought they would be," said Mr Bryant, a member of the Tauranga delegation to the World Trade Expo in Shanghai and to sister city Yantai on the north east coast.
"The Chinese are leading the world in town planning and technology, and their industry is incredible.
"I didn't realise how many big companies are rooted here and how much money comes in from overseas to boost their economy and employment," he said.
"Seeing Shanghai and Yantai, the Chinese are 20 years more advanced than I thought. The country is being run like a corporate entity."
Mr Bryant said smaller New Zealand companies may have been put off by the volumes the Chinese talk about.
"They can chew through a million (manufacturing) units before morning tea," he said. "But it's only degrees of scale."
Mr Bryant, chairman of Aquasplash, said small and medium-sized New Zealand companies can do business in China if they are on the ground and building contacts and relationships.
He and his general manager, Ed Baggaley, proved that in Shanghai.
Aquasplash, with Tauranga directors, produce the Te Waihou Reserve brand from the Blue Spring near Putaruru, and their pure water, bottled in a state-of-the-art factory in Putaruru, is being served for VIP functions in the New Zealand Pavilion at the World Trade Expo.
Two business brokers, who studied at Waikato University, found out they were in town and met them on a Sunday morning - one of them travelled three hours to Mr Bryant and Mr Baggaley's hotel.
It turned out that one of the broker's uncles operates a supermarket chain in the Shanghai district and he wanted to stock quality New Zealand mineral water.
The brokers talked to an associate in Wellington and he put them on to Aquasplash, knowing they were in Shanghai.
A delighted Mr Bryant received a surprise call, and a potential deal.
"The brokers spoke good English and had a New Zealand connection.

You normally have to explain what you are selling but they knew, and we went straight to base two in the meeting. It was great," he said.
The brokers initially wanted to negotiate a supply agreement for three supermarkets and they went away to compare and analyse prices. Mr Bryant expects to hear from them within three weeks.
"We would be four times the price of domestic mineral water in the supermarkets - but ours is pure, not engineered," he said.
"Evian, from France, is selling for 9 yuan (nearly $2) a bottle, and we can be around the same price.
"The younger people here are understanding water better and are inquiring about a quality product that demands a higher price, like organically grown food. We can be in the ballpark and compete against Evian in the supermarkets," said Mr Bryant.
He said there was still a process of negotiation to go through, "but the volume [required] could change our price".
If the Chinese order comes through, Aquasplash will produce the water in 500ml plastic bottles under a new brand.
The Te Waihou Reserve, in glass bottles, will remain at the premium end of the global market, going into hotels, restaurants and other food services.
Mr Baggaley left Shanghai for meetings in Beijing, Hong Kong and Japan as Aquasplash, now ready to export, develop distribution networks.
In Yantai, Mr Bryant visited the Changyu Mineral Water Company, and he was interested to learn that its water came from a bore 1500m in the ground and is drawn up through saltwater.
The water undergoes reverse osmosis to build it back up to drinking standard - in other words, engineered water.
Aquasplash's water comes 100 per cent pure from the Blue Spring, and there's hardly any processing.
"We know there is space over here for clean, green, natural spring water in the premium niche market, and I'm absolutely sure we can sell ours," said Mr Bryant.
Aquasplash - its bottling plant is as hygienic as an operating theatre - has the capacity to fill one million bottles in a week, or 50 million in a year.
Mr Bryant moved to Tauranga at the end of 1967 after the family sheep farm at Kawhia was sold. He operated Tauranga Hire Co for 20 years before selling to Hirepool, and had 36ha in Katikati for kiwifruit and deer.
He lost his deer herd, and then marketed an air freshener aerosol can propelled by nitrogen.
It went into supermarkets throughout the country through the O Two business.
With an engineering bent, Mr Bryant then developed the Chain Trenching Machine and ran Trench-it Industries for 18 years. He also bought stone mason Pacific Stone and revitalised sales of its granite benchtops.
He sold it six years later and went into spring water. "I work on the principle that if you throw enough mud at the wall, some of it will stick.
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained. If you are going to be successful, then you have to get a bloody nose along the way. But I hate to be beaten," said Mr Bryant.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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