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Sanitarium's boss in New Zealand likes to practise what his company preaches.

The Auckland cereal firm, still owned by this country's Seventh-day Adventist Church more than a century after its founding, has a philosophy based on healthy living and Christian principles.

In accordance with that, it seems, general manager Pierre van Heerden is a keen runner - completing more than 80 marathons and ultramarathons.

The South African-born 52-year-old has been an Adventist all his life.

He says Sanitarium is a proudly Christian-based business, although the church steers clear of the firm's daily operations.

"That gets left to management, basically."

Like a publicly listed company, Sanitarium has an annual meeting with its shareholder - the church - each year at which a briefing is given on the financial and operational performance of the firm.

The company's six directors, appointed by the religious authority, are all Adventists, says Van Heerden, and most of those who work for the organisation follow a religion.

Van Heerden says Adventist principles go hand-in-hand with business.

"If you look at the general principles of business, ethics and things like that, most people subscribe to those ethics and similarly a Christian-based organisation subscribes to them as well."

Sanitarium's profits are invested into the community through its support of events such as the Weet-Bix Tryathlon series and the KickStart Breakfast programme, which is run in conjunction with Fonterra in low socio-economic schools.

Adventists celebrate their Sabbath - the time of rest and worship - from sunset on Friday until dusk on Saturday.

Because of this, Sanitarium's manufacturing facilities are shut down over the same period each week.

"A lot of companies look at us and say, 'boy, how can you afford to close down over that period and not operate seven days a week?' But that is our principle. We feel blessed by that."

Van Heerden became general manager of the company 3 years ago after working in various positions in Sanitarium's Australian wing.

He considers himself a "Tri-Nations citizen" and has become an All Blacks supporter since his arrival in New Zealand.

Asked why he no longer supports the Springboks, Van Heerden said: "South Africa isn't the country I grew up in any more. If I go back there I feel like a foreigner. But some things are better, because if you look at the history of apartheid and everything that was a horrendous era to go through."

Van Heerden lives on the North Shore with his wife, Galina, and has four children.

Adventists
* Christian denomination formally established at Battle Creek, Michigan, USA in 1863.

* Almost 16 million members worldwide in 2009.

* Theology resembles that of Protestantism, although Adventists have some distinctive practices such as a Saturday Sabbath and a health message that advocates vegetarianism and the avoidance of foods considered "unclean" such as pork and shellfish.