Talk about fresh
The opportunity to purchase the Bells Gourmet Foods business as a going concern came in 1996. Bruce and Judy Mayhew were looking for another challenge and decided to look for a business in the food industry. After checking out a couple of other opportunities, they identified a small Christchurch operation manufacturing fresh salads, soups and coleslaw – Bells Gourmet Foods. This business was a small locally based operation and was one of the early pioneers in the coleslaw and salads business in the South Island. The business needed some focus, some direction and attention, but was in a sector of the food business that was poised to rapidly expand – the ready to go, fresh and convenient take home food sector.
It was an exciting opportunity to be part of this business and required not only our “heart and soul” commitment to grow the business but also some significant financial input. All areas of the business were reviewed and changes made where necessary. This meant upgrading the equipment, updating the packaging, reviewing the processing and upgrading the Food Safety Programme. Bells gourmet Foods operates under a HACCP Food Safety Programme .
We started with 3 full time workers and 3 part time packers , and our team progressively grew in size as the business developed.We quickly outgrew the original small- but effective production, storage and administration facility in Tuam Street – close to central Christchurch.
In 2004 we commissioned the design and build of a new office and factory in Leeds Street, close to the existing facility. This was a good opportunity to improve work flow and storage together with better office and administration facilities. This was soon followed by the purchase of additional Chilled delivery vehicles, a new commercial steamer for the kitchen, new coleslaw processing machines and more workers joining our team. At this stage we employed 18 full time and 3 Part time team members.
The next stage of our development came in 2010 when we entered into discussions with the owners of Bush Road Limited – our main competitor in the South Island. From these discussions came negotiations to join forces and to create a new holding Company – South Island Fresh Foods ltd. This new company would be able to compete aggressively with the other large operators in the fresh salads, coleslaw and related products business in New Zealand. It would also mean that the company would be able to expand the reach of its products into the North Island retail market.