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Food processor is heart of horticultural sector

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Kate de Lautour

Fruit and vegetable processing company Vegeez has its roots firmly embedded in Hawkes Bay’s horticultural history, with founder the late Alan Reid something of a pioneer of the New Zealand processing industry.

When Glen Reid joined the family business ten years ago, following the death of his father, he initially had plans to be involved as an interim measure, for six months.

“I had been working in Alaska for five years in several commercial fisheries and had returned home to pursue a career in domestic fisheries.”

Soon realizing that the company had much to gain in the “fresh cut” fruit and vegetable industry, Glen put his fishery ideas aside and focused solely on building the Vegeez customer base throughout New Zealand.

“The company had a great foundation to build from; we had a group of loyal staff, customers and suppliers relationships that were paramount to our survival and growth.”

Vegeez was started in1992 by Alan Reid in Stoneycroft Street in Hastings. Alan had been the founder of Growers Canneries in the 70’s and pioneered the canning of asparagus and other Hawke’s Bay grown crops.

“My father always seemed to find better ways of processing fruit and veg’ than what was available on the market at the time. He was quite ingenious with his ideas and we are continually fine tuning these concepts.”

As Vegeez outgrew its small factory, the company moved its operation to a two hectare site in Omahu Road, and expanded into a purpose-built production line to produce both frozen fruit and vegetable purees and other frozen products, including organic products for soup and baby food manufacturers for both local and offshore markets.

Vegeez is now a leader in the fresh cut market, supplying leading manufacturers, institutional and food service clientele.

Strong relationships have been developed with buyers in Australia, Asia and Japan and Glen enjoys hosting the international customers.

“Our visitors are always highly impressed by what the Bay has to offer”.

With the extra workload, Glen’s brother Michael has joined the family business, having left a banking career in the UK.

“It’s great to have my brother involved. With his banking background, he brings a different perspective to our company’s direction.”

Sister Fiona is also involved in the business at a finance level and staff numbers have grown to 25 full time plus additional seasonal staff.

Three years ago Vegeez invested in local artisan food producer Aromatics.

The synergies are working well between the two companies and both share the same Omahu Road site.

Glen says the prospect of the Ruataniwha water scheme getting the go ahead is a hot topic for the industry.

“I think as a community we are a little short sighted with objections to the Dam build.

“I believe in the long term our region will benefit and, if what the scientists say is true, it won’t be at the cost of our environment.”

Glen believes food production in Hawke’s Bay is in good shape.

“Our main focus is to provide our customers with the best service, highest quality, safest product on the market.”