Angus Black, general manager of meat manufacturer Harrington's, talks about the growing popularity of plant-based "vegan meats" and the limited impact he thinks it will have on the country's primary industries.
What does your business do?
Harrington's is a small goods manufacturer based in Wellington. We focus primarily on New Zealand free range pork and beef as a raw material and try to use authentic and traditional recipes. We operate in the higher end of the market, it is certainly a growing niche, and our products are sold in Foodstuffs supermarkets in the North Island.
What was the motivation for starting?
The business has been going for about 25 years. It started as a butcher shop in Marjoribanks St by a local character who started producing these products in the same basic way that we produce them now.
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He went through the difficulties of competing with the supermarkets and the business changed over a period of time. I was a restaurateur at the time, I was buying the products, and one thing led to another and then all of a sudden we bought the business and were working with him. I bought the business in 1997. It started in the early to mid 90s and was a butcher shop and morphed into a little manufacturer, it had one employee when we bought the business.
How big is your team?
We have a team of 12 but have invested in a significant amount of technology in the last few years.
Harrington's has been in business for 20 years, where is the company at in its life cycle and what are you currently focused on?
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This year we have been in a consolidation period. We've done a major upgrade to the factory this year so our focus has been about building capacity, and we've also done a much bigger upgrade to our packaging, now using recycled packaging. We've been getting all of our ducks in a row and getting the building blocks right. This is the last part of the project, we've been building capacity for the last four years; it has been a lot of work getting ourselves in a really good position where we can now grow with confidence.
What will you be focused on next year?
Our big goals are really to distribute through the South Island in the demographic areas that suit our products. Our aim is not to be in every supermarket because our products don't suit every supermarket. Next year, and the next two years, is about growth, we've got two years of working hard to push sales and get our distribution channels robust.
Our business has three direct channels; food service straight into restaurants and cafes, we do contracting work and provide all the free-range product for Hell Pizza, and the retailers as well. Primarily we are looking to grow in the retail segment but will also be trying to pick up some more food service customers.
How has the industry you are operating in changed in the past 20 years and how much competition are you facing?
It is very competitive. The big players are now focused on imported product because they can't get enough local product. We really see growth in focusing on New Zealand product, and there seems to be a big swing in consumer opinion around sustainability too.
What are your thoughts on the future of the meat industry and is the rise in "vegan meats" or plant-based alternatives a threat to primary industries?
What it will do is force meat producers to create good quality meat products. Will it make a huge difference? I don't think it will. The makeup is 2 or 3 per cent at the moment, the flexitarian and vegan stuff is so small. If it gets to 5 [per cent], what's the difference going to be? There's so many competitors in that market that there will be a big rationalisation because there are so many people getting into it. We don't see it as any threat.
What advice do you give to others thinking about starting their own business?
Get the foundations right. Make sure that you know your market and make sure your business is transparent.