Six decades of putting in the crunch

Central Leader - - NEWS - By SCOTT MOR­GAN

Blue­bird em­ploy­ees are cel­e­brat­ing six decades of trans­form­ing the hum­ble spud into crunchy chips.

The Wiri-based snack man­u­fac­turer, which has also been based in Mt Eden and Otara, turns 60 this year.

Forty-seven-year vet­eran Dave Gil­more says there have been mas­sive changes at the com­pany since he started.

Back in the day piles of 20kg bags of pota­toes were kept on site to pro­duce the chips, with space of­ten run­ning out.

‘‘You used to dig down for the rot­ten spuds. They’d say ‘what’s that smell’ when you went into the cafe,’’ Mr McPher­son says.

Now pota­toes get trucked in daily.

He’s also

seen

sev­eral own­ers of the Blue­bird brand come and go, with Good­man Fielder, Gra­ham Hart’s Burns Philp & Co and most re­cently Pep­siCo pur­chas­ing the com­pany.

Pack­ag­ing ma­chine op­er­a­tor Anna Story has been at Blue­bird for 37 years and never con­sid­ered leav­ing.

‘‘It was my sec­ond job when I came here from the Cook Is­lands,’’ she says.

‘‘Why would I find an­other job if I’ve al­ready got a good job?’’

She says changes in tech­nol­ogy have made a huge dif­fer­ence, mak­ing it eas­ier and faster to pro­duce prod­ucts.

‘‘Now we’ve got a ro­bot area. In the old days peo­ple used to stack car­tons on the pal­lets.’’

A lit­tle bit of Kiwi in­ge­nu­ity was of­ten used to make the chips taste good.

‘‘Some­times we used a con­crete mixer to add flavour, then we’d take them out. It’s much dif­fer­ent th­ese days.’’

Ware­house worker Rob Grant, who’s also been at Blue­bird for 37 years, says many em­ploy­ees didn’t have far to travel to work when the fac­tory was in Love­grove Cres, Otara, dur­ing the 1970s and 1980s.

‘‘Back in the old days ev­ery­one used to walk to work – it was so close.

‘‘Some used to walk along by the creek,’’ he says.

But be­ing lo­cated by Otara Creek also al­lowed ac­cess for some un­wanted guests.

‘‘Street kids used to pinch the rub­bish – the chips that were not coloured or flavoured prop­erly,’’ he says.

‘‘You’d come in in the morn­ing and see a big plas­tic bag walk­ing by it­self. You’d yell out and the kids would run off.’’

Blue­bird group brand man­ager Jo­dene Ni­gro says the com­pany is look­ing for­ward to hold­ing a cel­e­bra­tion for em­ploy­ees to mark the 60th an­niver­sary.

Photo: SCOTT MOR­GAN

Loyal work­ers: Long-serv­ing Blue­bird em­ploy­ees Anna Story, Rob Grant and Dave Gil­more re­flect on the com­pany’s his­tory dur­ing its 60th an­niver­sary.

Go to manukau­courier.co.nz and click on Lat­est Edi­tion to watch video about how the Blue­bird fac­tory works.

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