What makes Kaipara Kumara so unique...
Kaipara Kumara continued with steady growth through the 1990’s, setting up the first commercial kumara washing, grading and packing plant, along with the implementation of the Kaipara Kumara Seed Programme
Greenhill Gardens Ltd was established in 1970 by the late Gary Blundell and his family. The business re-branded in 2002 to Kaipara Kumara Ltd. The business initially focused on mushroom cultivating at its Ruawai based facility, supplying the New Zealand domestic market. During this time the business was also growing and supplying crown pumpkin to complement the established direct marketing relationship with its key supermarket customer – Foodtown (now known as Countdown).
In 1972 Kaipara Kumara started working with kumara growers in the region to establish a continuous supply of kumara.The kumara supply base was expanded enabling the company to support grower/suppliers in the region. Focus was on the packing and marketing aspects of the operation – specifically the grading, packing and selling of kumara and some seasonal crown pumpkin and buttercup. Due to a lack of resources and capital, Mushroom cultivation was phased out in the early 1980's. This was a hard decision for Gary to have to make at the time, but it has since proved to be the right one for the business.
Kaipara Kumara continued with steady growth with kumara through the 1980 & 90’s, setting up the first commercial kumara washing, grading and packing plant in 1991. 1996 saw the implementation of the Kaipara Kumara Seed Programme, dedicated to improving kumara quality. The scheme has evolved and now involves the use of micro-propagation techniques to ensure high health seed only is used by growers in the group.
In 2002, the Blundell family invited key grower/suppliers to purchase a shareholding in the business. The new company made a conscious decision to vertically integrate itself into the supply chain and place itself in a stronger position to grow the business.
Kaipara Kumara places considerable importance on long standing relationships with grower suppliers. The photograph at left shows Anthony Blundell, the company’s Managing Director (centre) with the seed programme manager Brian Henderson (left) and Melvyn Evans (right). The Henderson family was the first supplier to Kaipara Kumara in 1970 and Melvyn had been a grower supplier for over 30 years until retiring from growing in late 2016. Melvyn's father, Bill, was the first commercial kumara grower in the 1940's based in Naumai.
The company is one of Northland's premier kumara packhouses with an annual output of over 6,000 tonnes and employs a little over 40 permanent staff. The packhouse operates under strict guidelines with its own Food Safety Quality Programme which is backed up by annual independent auditing. This helps ensure that the in-house processing systems meet the exacting standards required to deliver safe, quality kumara to its customers.
The grower/supplier production base is around 300 hectares, with growers’ production areas ranging in size from 5 to 120 hectares. The geographic spread around the northern Kaipara region helps balance overall yield and performance of kumara grown for any particular season.
Kaipara Kumara and its growers were among the first to attain accreditation in the NZ GAP (www.newzealandgap.co.nz) – which was founded and managed by Horticulture NZ. NZ GAP is a quality assurance programme that provides a traceable, accountable system from crop to customer for the production of fruit, vegetables, olives and flowers. It ensures best practices are in place for the production, packaging and distribution of New Zealand fresh produce, and reduces the risk of health, safety and environmental issues - so customers can buy with confidence.
Kaipara Kumara were one of the first participants in the 5 + A Day (www.5aday.co.nz) initiative of United Fresh NZ Inc. and maintain an active and supportive role for the organisation and its promotion of fruit and vegetables to New Zealanders consumers. The company is also a member of the Produce Marketing Association - Australia/New Zealand (www.pma-anz.com).
Kaipara Kumara maintains an active and key role in working with Countdown (www.countdown.co.nz) to manage the domestic kumara supermarket category. Other domestic customers include Mr Chips (www.mrchips.co.nz) and Proper Crisps (www.propercrisps.co.nz). The company continues to deliver value for all its business partners – from growers, staff, customers, right through to the end-consumers.