‘80s CHILD BACK ON TREND

PRO­FILE FOODS CAME FROM HUM­BLE BEGIN­NINGS IN A HAMIL­TON GARAGE. TO­DAY ITS PROD­UCTS ARE BE­ING WEL­COMED IN MAR­KETS THROUGH­OUT SOUTH­EAST ASIA.

NZ Business - - CONTENTS - BY CATHER­INE BEARD CATHER­INE BEARD IS EX­EC­U­TIVE DI­REC­TOR OF EXPORTNZ, WHICH AS­SISTS EX­PORTERS THROUGH­OUT NEW ZEALAND. WWW. EXPORTNZ.ORG. NZ.

Pro­file Foods came from hum­ble begin­nings in a Hamil­ton garage. To­day its prod­ucts are be­ing wel­comed in mar­kets through­out South­east Asia.

M ost Kiwi’s will be fa­mil­iar with Ali­son’s Pantry bulk foods – usu­ally found in the handy scoop bins at your lo­cal su­per­mar­ket. Named af­ter one of the na­tion’s best-loved cooks, Ali­son Holst, the nuts, seeds, grains and dried fruits rep­re­sent good hon­est Kiwi whole­some­ness.

But it may sur­prise you to know that this iconic prod­uct is also a hit over­seas, in very dif­fer­ent mar­kets.

Pro­life Foods was born in 1984 in the garage of Bernie and Kaye Crosby’s rented Hamil­ton home. In its in­fancy, dried fruit and nuts were de­liv­ered to health food shops in the boot of the Cros­bys’ Tri­umph 2000.

Jump for­ward more than three decades, and with a turnover of over $300 mil­lion, this in­no­va­tive food busi­ness has grown to in­clude sev­eral brands as well as Ali­son’s Pantry, in­clud­ing Mother Earth, Had­drell’s of Cam­bridge and Dono­vans Cho­co­lates.

Mike Sheeran, GM In­ter­na­tional of Pro­life Foods, ex­plains why Ali­son’s Pantry prod­ucts were cho­sen for ex­port.

“The self-se­lec­tion cat­e­gory is re­ally on-trend with health and well­be­ing glob­ally, not just in New Zealand. Plus it’s our core com­pe­tency. We’ve done it for a long time in New Zealand and have a great re­la­tion­ship with Food­stuffs here.

“Aus­tralia was the most ob­vi­ous test mar­ket, and de­vel­op­ing a suc­cess­ful re­la­tion­ship with Coles there gave us the con­fi­dence and im­pe­tus to go fur­ther afield.”

So af­ter just a cou­ple of years in the in­ter­na­tional play­ing field be­yond Aus­tralia, what has Mike learnt?

“We’re fo­cus­ing on set­ting up our South­east Asia strat­egy and have found suc­cess in Sin­ga­pore,” he says. “We’ve started a part­ner­ship there with Hong Kong Dairy Farms, which owns su­per­mar­kets through­out South­east Asia. It’s a cat­e­gory that re­ally differentiates re­tail­ers’ fresh food propo­si­tion; it’s in­no­va­tive and stands out.

“One of the key learn­ings for me is that you must have a very strong do­mes­tic busi­ness be­fore mov­ing to ex­port­ing. You need a lot of ca­pa­bil­ity in your in­fra­struc­ture – from man­u­fac­tur­ing sup­ply chains to brand mar­ket­ing, fi­nance sup­port and HR.

“With our self-se­lec­tion model, we em­ploy peo­ple in over­seas mar­kets that we have to train, and there can be lan­guage and cul­tural bar­ri­ers.”

If you have a strong con­sumer propo­si­tion with glob­ally un­der­stood prod­ucts, you can be strong any­where, ex­plains Mike. The les­son is tak­ing that con­sumer propo­si­tion from be­ing suc­cess­ful in one coun­try, and adapt­ing that com­mer­cial model to suit other coun­tries’ in­fra­struc­ture and re­tail.

“The Sin­ga­pore mar­ket, for ex­am­ple, has a very dif­fer­ent re­tail foot­print – the stores are a lot smaller and it’s a lot more frag­mented.”

One of the keys to Pro­life Foods’ in­ter­na­tional suc­cess, ac­cord­ing to Mike, is tri­al­ing things – then redefin­ing the con­sumer propo­si­tion over time to suit the lo­cal mar­ket. This worked well with Ali­son’s Pantry in Cold Stor­age su­per­mar­kets in Sin­ga­pore, where Pro­life Foods was op­er­at­ing a store within a store.

Pro­life Foods has am­bi­tious growth as­pi­ra­tions, and strate­gic re­tailer part­ner­ships will be key.

“We’ve been in this mar­ket a long time and have plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence and pas­sion for it,” says Mike. “Also, we in­vest heav­ily in un­der­stand­ing how to grow and de­velop this cat­e­gory, and we al­ways con­tinue to in­no­vate. I be­lieve we can re­ally lead the mar­ket glob­ally.”

To de­velop strong ex­port busi­ness, his ad­vice is to make sure your com­pany: a) Is com­mit­ted to the long-term jour­ney, un­der­stand­ing it’s

a slow burn. b) Has a strong do­mes­tic base, in­fra­struc­ture and ca­pa­bil­ity. c) Is com­mit­ted from an in­vest­ment and re­sourc­ing per­spec­tive. d) Has strong lead­er­ship across the busi­ness, de­vel­op­ing the ‘new’ in

un­char­tered wa­ters.

PRO­LIFE FOODS FOUNDERS BERNIE AND KAYE CROSBY.

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