Paddock to packet in the Heartland ________________
Charlotte Bowman never thought her father would achieve in retirement his lifetime dream of setting up a paddock to packet business, growing potatoes and marketing potato chips.
But that’s exactly what happened seven years ago, she told the Potatoes New Zealand Conference.
She’s now general manager of Heartland Potato Chips while her older brother, James, handles day-today operations.
Her father, Raymond, grew up on a dairy farm and left school at 15. He worked on a cropping farm, then when he was 18 started supplying a local fish and chip shop with potatoes.
In 1975 he bought Fallgate Farm at Orari, north of Timaru, then added neighbouring properties growing potatoes and cereals and running some sheep. When they were young she, her brother and younger sister Kate used to sell potatoes from an honesty box on the road to earn Christmas holiday money.
“And now I do the same thing with my children,” she said.
She gained an education degree and taught physical education and health in Wellington and in Perth, Western Australia.
In 2008 Raymond found out that a Washdyke potato crisping plant, for which he was the main supplier, was closing down.
“He saw it was the chance to fulfill his lifetime dream,” she said.
“He knew it was never going to be easy as he didn’t have the staff or money.”
But he sold a cold storage building in Temuka, got the bank behind him, bought the plant and asked her to come home to work in the business.
“Buying it was the easy part,” she said.
New plant arrived to be installed just before the 2009 Christchurch earthquake but Heartland chips were being sold at retail within eight months. Former staff were employed from the crisping plant.
“But even the sales manager said he wasn’t sure it was going to work going up against the big boys,” she said.
Her mother, Adrienne, known for her creative ideas, came up with the name Heartland and also the concept of putting a photo of their potatoes on the front and back of each bag. Another point of difference was their promotion of the chips as gluten and palm oil-free. Also the chips have an
old-fashioned wave cut, which has promotional appeal. Heartland Potato Chips also promotes itself as farmerowned and operated.
They produced five different flavours to begin with and began by selling them through local Pak ’n Save and New World supermarkets. Within three months they were selling them to almost all these stores in the South Island, which meant they could deliver the chips to distribution centres in Christchurch and Dunedin rather than to every store.
They expanded to the lower North Island in 2011 and the upper North Island in late 2012. Two years ago they launched new packaging, then ventured into the premium end of the market, producing kettle chips, with the best seller the apple cider vinegar flavour. They are always looking at ways of extending their range, mindful that it is important to always keep abreast of new trends, Charlotte said.
Much has been learned on the way to building the brand to where it now is:
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help, walk before you run, never give up on your dreams and turn challenges into opportunities.”
▴ Charlotte Bowman. _________________