Your Business: Pita bread firm aims to rise with new products

By Gill South

Danny Eliahu and his son Yaron are looking to China.  Photo / Steven McNicholl
Danny Eliahu and his son Yaron are looking to China. Photo / Steven McNicholl

When Israeli Danny Eliahu came to New Zealand in the late 1980s, he decided to leave behind his expertise in fashion retailing and instead to introduce us to traditional handmade pita bread.

He and his family arrived in the country in May 1989 and he launched the business in September that year.

Initially Danny, his wife, Hassida and four boys ran the business, Danny's The Real Pita Bread Co.

Today, based in East Tamaki, it is run by his son Yaron, who is the chief operations officer, with a staff of 40 and Danny is semi-retired.

The two men have expended a lot of energy in educating New Zealanders about pita bread.

Danny will go along to The Food Show as the ambassador of the company.

The company website www.pitabread.co.nz has a number or recipes to help consumers with ideas and show them the versatility of pita bread.

"Pita is an ancient bread, made of flour, salt, yeast, a bit of sugar and water," says Yaron.

It has no preservatives so is best kept frozen and then thawed in the toaster.

The entrepreneur remembers early on travelling up to Coromandel to introduce the people of Hahei to pita bread.

He managed to sell some to a local shop up there, and then couldn't find any other takers so he ended up giving his supply away.

He remembers the local children's reaction. "The kids took them and made them look like boxing gloves!"

Today, the pita bread market is worth nearly $11 million a year and Danny's has gone from a 32.5 per cent market share in 2010 to 35.86 per cent in 2011.

It makes a range of pita bread including, white, wholemeal, olive and garlic.

Danny's has expanded to produce a range of pita bread crisps and ready-made falafel.

It supplies restaurants and cafes as well as 300 supermarkets throughout the country with the pita bread.

The food service or restaurant supply side of the business, which includes Nando's as a customer, represents 16.3 per cent of Danny's pita bread market.

The entire line, including falafel, is sold in Foodstuffs supermarkets.

Meanwhile, the father and son are excited about the launch of a new Mediterranean pita bread on October 1 which will be stocked in Foodstuffs' supermarkets initially.

"There is no other product like it," says Yaron.

"Our new product will see that we have more growth from New Zealand," he says.

"If it works the way we are looking for, it will open other markets for us."

More pita crisp flavours are coming too.

Today the business has a turnover of close to $5.4 million.

"I'd like to double it, in the next five years, through new products and new markets," says Yaron.

While Australia is a very tough market, Yaron is contemplating China where he has a good contact.

"China is ruled by the army, you need to get close to the army. If you are in the right place, you will get your way through."

The two men describe the local market as tough and becoming tougher. Although there are eight or nine competitors, the real competition is from home brands such as Signature and Pam's, they say.

Danny's does not offer to make home brands because they have seen other companies kill their own brand line through the home brand.

- NZ Herald

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