After 14 years at Heinz Wattie’s, Shane Don was brought in to GreenMount Foods just under a year ago as GM of Sales & Marketing, to take the growing family SME to next level. I caught up with him to glean some tips on out-of-the-box thinking.
With production facilities in Hawkes Bay (vegetables) and Tauranga (stocks and meals), GreenMount Foods provides high quality meal components for food service, retail and manufacturing customers in Asia, USA, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.
“As I’ve travelled around the world I’ve found that it pays to have someone on the ground in-market working for you,” says Shane. “For example, I may get to Dubai two or three times a year, but it’s not enough. We now have a business manager there working for us who is fully available to visit customers, sort out any problems, get samples out, sort out any issues with products on the wharf, etc.
“We’ve just cracked into the USA and we’ve done the same thing – so we have a business manager based in LA. We’ve also got one in Japan, China, Singapore, and Hong Kong. We’ve found them through networking, relationships, distributors and working with NZTE.
“If companies just starting out can’t afford their own in-country manager, I’d recommend partnering with other Kiwi like-minded companies to employ a consultant in-market.”
Shane has recently introduced a chef ambassador programme, which he aims to employ in each country.
“We’ve just signed up a chef in Sydney who will act as a chef ambassador for us in Australia, NZ and the US. We also have one in Dubai and Japan, and we’re working with a distributor in Singapore to secure one there too.
“The chef ambassadors are really effective at events where they can give cooking demonstrations. It’s valuable having that reputable third party endorsement on the quality of our products, and it frees us up to build relationships with prospective new clients.
“These investments help us remain competitive in the international playing field. As a small company from a small country, we have to innovate and think differently.”
Collaborate onshore to compete offshore
One of Shane’s tips for other Kiwi exporters is to consider partnerships with like-minded NZ companies that have complementary products.
“We try to team up with meat companies where we can. That allows distributors to have a basket of products to present, and a better return.
“For example, we’re working with a company in Hong Kong that has built a model to import and distribute NZ products. They have some strong partners – such as Fonterra and Alliance – and we’ve joined that group. Within this partnership, we’re working on recruiting a sales person in-market.”
“Our products are top-end and have a clean green aspect, especially being from NZ. We also have a paddock to plate story,” says Shane. “We can control the supply chain – right from the locally grown vegetables, and everything is made as chefs themselves would make it, from scratch.
“We’re also working on our story telling capability – especially though social media, with videos of our chefs doing cooking demonstrations using our products. We’re focusing on getting our StockShop Co brand out into the market.
“In the future, and as more people get into cooking through watching TV cooking shows and want quality products that chefs use, we aim to expand more into retail space to meet the demand for high quality meal components from New Zealand. We will be making these available online and through retail channels.”
Catherine Beard is Executive Director of ExportNZ, which serves its members via regional offices throughout the country.