Cool cus­tomers

A new com­pany boast­ing or­ganic, Fair­trade treats is tak­ing on the big boys

Element - - Contents - By Sam Eich­blatt

The story of the Nice­block

For most of New Zealand, this has been the sum­mer that never quite hap­pened — but for new com­pany Nice Blocks, this is the sum­mer when ev­ery­thing started. Pos­si­bly the best day of them all was the Laneways Fes­ti­val in Jan­uary. “We sold thou­sands of ice-blocks that day,” says Tommy Holden, co-cre­ator of the or­ganic, Fair­trade-cer­ti­fied Nice­blocks. “Re­tail­ers have been say­ing it’s been the worst sum­mer ever, but we’re do­ing well on it.”

Holden, who started the com­pany with his friend James Crow in a garage while they were both em­ployed else­where full-time, says that as well as sell­ing around 5000 frozen treats a week, Nice Blocks is av­er­ag­ing three to four new ac­counts a week. Their small branded freez­ers are now pop­ping up at cafés, or­ganic shops and delis through­out greater Auck­land and fur­ther afield. Not bad for a five-month-old com­pany with a first pack­aged prod­uct dropped only on De­cem­ber 15 last year.

The fu­ture busi­ness part­ners met five years ago through their ro­man­tic part­ners, who are also best friends. Holden’s par­ents had one of the first or­ganic stores in New Zealand, and did the cater­ing for in­ter­na­tional bands play­ing here be­tween the 1970s and 2000. Crow, amongst other things, pro­duced an or­ganic skin balm and tat­too af­ter-care skin cream de­rived from an old fam­ily recipe.

While they had al­ways floated the idea of start­ing a busi­ness, noth­ing clicked un­til Tip Top tem­po­rar­ily stopped mak­ing grape­fruit Fru­jus: “We were talk­ing about how much we missed them, so that gave us the idea,” says Holden. “Ice-blocks were a log­i­cal choice for us be­cause we didn’t want to mort­gage the house just yet!”

Ob­vi­ously, they faced some stiff com­pe­ti­tion from the ice-block es­tab­lish­ment, es­pe­cially in hot spots such as Piha beach or events like the Big Day Out.

“We had to go in at a dif­fer­ent an­gle to the big com­pa­nies,” says Holden. “We haven’t priced it high, we’ve just priced it at what we need to pro­duce it. It’s not a gourmet, su­per-pre­mium prod­uct — we wanted to go down to the shop with our kids and give them a treat we didn’t feel bad about, with­out palm oil or corn syrup. That was the big thing for us.”

The six flavours were in­spired by pop­u­lar one-man­band kiosks in Spain and Mex­ico pro­duc­ing in­ex­pen­sive, fresh ice-blocks from lo­cal fruit. Holden de­vel­ops each in his kitchen and tests them on his friends, throw­ing in the oc­ca­sional limited edi­tion flavour — such as the lemon, lime and bit­ters that proved so pop­u­lar at Laneways — to keep it ex­cit­ing.

Nice Blocks in­gre­di­ents are sourced eth­i­cally and, for the most part, lo­cally. Where they have to go fur­ther afield, the com­pany makes sure the sup­ply chain op­er­ates in an equally sus­tain­able fash­ion. “For ex­am­ple, our co­conut cream comes from Samoa.

“We phone the or­der in and the guy is lit­er­ally go­ing out and pick­ing the co­conuts off the trees. It must be the fresh­est co­conut cream in the world.”

James Crow and Tommy Holden of Nice­blocks. Photo: Ted Baghurst.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.