Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

French food firm tastes success

Founder of French cuisine company says business-friendly New Zealand key to achievement.

Thomas Dietz' ready-to-eat French meals are now sold in supermarkets and groceries all over the country.
Thomas Dietz' ready-to-eat French meals are now sold in supermarkets and groceries all over the country.

Global surveys often rank New Zealand as one of the easiest places in the world to run a business, and Frenchman Thomas Dietz would be inclined to agree.

The 37-year-old founded Tomette - a ready-to-eat French meal company - in Auckland in 2012 and the firm already has its products stocked in supermarkets across the country.

Dietz reckons his chances of success would have been pretty low had he established the business back in his home city of Paris.

"It would have been very difficult," he said. "It would have required lots more money and a lot more time."

Dietz was amazed by the ease with which a company could be set up here.

"It's really super-easy, whereas in France you have so much administration and everything is very complex," he said. "Here in New Zealand you just pay $167 and you're registered. Everything is set up to help you."

Dietz said his start-up had received a lot of support, both from the Government-run Food Bowl food innovation centre in Manukau and Auckland business incubator The Icehouse, which owns a 6 per cent stake in the firm.

Tomette's fresh (unfrozen) meals - which include beef bourguignon, chicken basquaise and lamb provencale - are now stocked in more than 30 New World supermarkets and specialty grocery retailers from Kerikeri to Dunedin.

Dietz said the meals were based on his late grandmother's recipes.

"It's not complex French cuisine," he said. "What we want to do is make French cuisine accessible - you can eat French food that is like made at home."

Dietz said ready-to-eat meals were a growing segment because people were "time poor".

Tomette's aim was to not only provide good-quality food but to take people on a "tour de France of gastronomy" in the two and a half minutes it took to prepare a meal.

Dietz said sales of Tomette meals had grown rapidly over the past year.

"In the second month we were selling four times as much as we were planning for after eight or nine months."

Dietz previously spent 10 years working for cosmetics company L'Oreal - a job which brought him to this country six years ago to work in the giant French firm's New Zealand division.

He is married to Jennifer Zea, a Venezuelan singer who recently produced an album with well-known Kiwi jazz musician Nathan Haines. The couple have a 6-year-old daughter called Obaya.

- NZ Herald

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