Crackers over oats
Getting to know Morgan Maw of oatcake business Bonnie Goods
Morgan Maw first discovered the popularity of oatcakes eight years ago while living in Edinburgh, Scotland, with her now-husband and business partner Nic. Touting them as a “cheese’s best friend”, she saw an opportunity to bring the Scottish staple downunder, giving Kiwis a twist on the traditional cracker and championing local ingredients in the process. And with that thought – and $600 in her pocket – Bonnie Goods was born. Using South Island wholegrain oats, salt, linseed, walnuts and kamahi honey, Bonnie Goods has since created a demand for a cracker whose inception was perfectly timed with a burgeoning artisanal cheese industry in New Zealand.
Your oatcakes are now a staple on the country’s cheeseboards. When did you first know you had a successful product on your hands?
We’ve been lucky to have some incredibly loyal customers and supportive small stockists since we first started baking oatcakes after hours at Auckland’s Ponsonby Community Centre in 2013. It was through these customers and their persistence in getting Bonnie stocked at their local store that we were approached by one of the big supermarkets after only three months selling at La Cigale Market in Parnell. Once we got ‘ranged’ [by the supermarket] and the orders started rolling in, I knew people were responding well to our product. We’re now stocked all over New Zealand and have begun sending oatcakes to Melbourne but I still get a buzz whenever a new store gets in touch and wants to put Bonnie on their shelves.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced starting a business in such a competitive market?
There have been so many hurdles it’s hard to pick just one. It’s typical that when you’re going through a particularly difficult time you think it will all be okay once [insert obstacle here] is over, but there is always something else on the horizon.
Our most testing times are similar to those of any small business: compliance, capital and finding the right people to help you grow. So every time I think, “Phew, that’s over,” there’s a fresh challenge. It sounds relentless and I guess it can be, but that keeps it varied and makes it all the more exciting.
Competing against the big brands in supermarkets is undoubtedly daunting, as their access to resources seems bottomless in comparison to us small guys, but I think it’s important for people to have variety and choice in stores. There are some fantastic local artisan brands shaking up the industry – just look at what’s happened to milk, peanut butter and craft beer in recent years.
You’re now flipping the traditional biscuit on its head with your new product – the oat biscuit. Was this concept based on a need you saw from a consumer perspective?
Absolutely. Bonnie Oat Biscuits are wholefood biscuits. People are veering away from sugar-laden treats and searching for healthier alternatives. So we decided to come up with a biscuit that not only uses our favourite ingredient – oats float our boat! – but also offers customers a lower sugar option (50 percent less sugar than the average sweet biscuit) and is wheat free – plus two of the flavours are dairy free, too. By using the best quality ingredients we’ve developed three delicious, full-flavoured biscuits to successfully bridge that hunger gap between meals: Dark Chocolate & Hazelnut, Dutch Spiced, and Peanut Brownie (in collaboration with our pals from Fix & Fogg peanut butter in Wellington).
You recently brought an investor on board after three years in business. Why was this the right time and what has it allowed you to do?
This was a big step for us and the money invested has gone straight back into the business to fund new product development. It was essential that we found a partner who could add value and help us grow the business, not simply just add dollars. This was important as we were not only looking for an investor but an advisor and mentor as well.
While the list of what goes into a traditional Scottish oatcake is fairly conservative, Morgan sought to add Kiwi flavour to her version and champion the best New Zealand ingredients in the process.