Caption: Jennifer Boggiss Heilala Vanilla.
Award-winning vanilla producer, Heilala Vanilla, has expanded its premises so it can boost production to meet global demand.
The company was one of the first to move to Tauranga’s purpose-built horticulture innovation business hub, The Newnham Park Innovation Centre, when it opened in 2010. But it quickly outgrew its site.
Cabinet minister and Bay of Plenty MP Tony Ryall and Tonga’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Sangster Saulala will officially open the second stage of the park on 23 May.
“With this expansion, we believe we now have the biggest pure vanilla extraction production facility in Australasia,” says Heilala Vanilla director and co-founder Jennifer Boggiss.
“Our harvest has increased year on year,” says Jennifer. “That’s enabled us to develop a full range of gourmet vanilla products for the retail, food service and food manufacturing sectors, which we now export to over seven countries.”
Heilala grows its vanilla on the Tongan island of Vava’u along with a group of vanilla growers from Tonga, and ships the total annual harvest to its Te Puna-based facility. There it extracts the pure vanilla and turns it into a range of products, including paste, syrup and sugar. The new, larger facility means Heilala can boost production and develop new products.
Jennifer says dignitaries from Tonga will attend the 23 May opening, showing the strong ties the company has to the Pacific nation.
“Our company has close ties with Tonga and was established on the principles of fair trade,” Jennifer says. “The people of Tonga are an integral part of our business, so having representatives attend our opening means they are with us every step of the way.”
The contingent includes the Minister and CEO of Agriculture, the Governor of Vava’u, CEO and Manager of Tongan National Youth Congress, Oxfam Tonga CEO, Oxfam New Zealand CEO and CEO of MORDI Tonga.
Heilala Vanilla’s growth has brought the company many accolades, the most recent being last year’s prizes in the Deloitte Fast 50 Central Region, as fastest-growing exporter and fastest-growing manufacturer.
The company has gone from harvesting 40kg in its first year to harvesting four tonnes in 2013. Its long-term goal is to make Tonga globally synonymous with premium vanilla.
“Over the past two years we have gained a number of new export markets and are well on our way to becoming a globally recognised premium vanilla brand,” says Jennifer.
Developers Steve Saunders and Rob Jeffrey opened the first stage of The Newnham Park Innovation Centre in 2010. Plus Group, Heilala Vanilla, marketer Southern Produce and Kiwifruitz were the first occupants of the site. Product development and innovation consultancy Locus Research has also moved in.
Saunders, who also owns Plus Group, says the park expansion will create a real difference in the region.
“We are committed to developing an innovation-driven hub,” he says. “It is hugely satisfying to get the buildings completed and see Heilala and Locus Research moving ahead. The expansion is also exciting for Plus Group Horticulture and the continued growth of our team.”
Stage two of The Newnham Park Innovation Centre will be officially opened on 23 May at 2.30pm by Tony Ryall (Minister of Health and State Owned Enterprises and local MP for Bay of Plenty) and Tonga’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Sangster Saulala.