Crack­ers over oats

Get­ting to know Mor­gan Maw of oat­cake busi­ness Bon­nie Goods

Nadia - - CONTENTS -

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.

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