Bid to grow 'billion dollar baby'

By Joseph Aldridge

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A Mount Maunganui food manufacturer who says he makes the healthiest salami in New Zealand is looking for investors keen to help take his business to the next level.

Identifying a gap in the market for a high-quality, low-fat salami, LASCo managing director Jeff Ryan developed a range of products 90 per cent fat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free.

Unlike many salami-makers who ferment the meat, LASCo uses a state-of-the-art smoking oven to cook the meat and kill bacteria.

Mr Ryan and partner Trudi Peet launched LASCo (Lean Artisan Smokehouse Co) late last year and have been doing the hard work necessary to get their products known and stocked in supermarkets and boutique grocers.

Individual supermarkets have enthusiastically taken the products on board but the real boost to sales will come from a supermarket chain stocking LASCo salamis (national grocery co-operative Foodstuffs is considering the products for it's New World and Pak'nSave supermarkets).

Sales and production levels had been rising exponentially with each new retail outlet - the business had been growing about 400 per cent a month - but extra investment was needed to take the business to the next level, Mr Ryan said.

For a little more than $60,000, the company could buy another high-tech smoking oven and begin commercial production of Mr Ryan's innovative new product - a meat and vegetable sausage.

"The world's never done it," Mr Ryan said. "How do you put meat and veges together? They don't want to be together because they both lose moisture when you cook them, so they want to push each other apart.

"The only time it's been done is when they've done it for dehydrated veges, and when you dehydrate you lose all the quality."

Using age-old food preserving techniques, Mr Ryan said he had solved the puzzle and now had a cooked meat-and-vegetable sausage with a 12-week shelf life.

"It's a cooked, cured product, so we're using the technology we got from the salami with the veges to make something that lasts."

Calling the product his "billion-dollar baby", Mr Ryan said the sausage had huge potential with groups who need pre-cooked, easy-to-carry, nutritious meals, such as hunters, yachties, truck drivers and the military.

The product, which was yet to be named, could even be used in disaster-relief situations, Mr Ryan said.

Halal salami was another growth avenue and he hoped to be exporting salami to Australia within a year.

LASCo operates out of a small factory on Matai St in Mount Maunganui, but Mr Ryan doesn't expect the company will stay there long.

"We'll outgrow this factory in the next few years, especially once that sausage hits the market, we'll need something about 10 times this size."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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