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.

NZ Grower - - Election 2017 -

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. _________________

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