New Zealand’s organic pioneer celebtrates 45 years

by | Nov 2, 2023 | News

Forty-five is still considered young these days. In human years anyway. But when it comes to tenure in retail, 45 years is a ripe old age. Not many retail organisations in New Zealand can boast a near half-century in operation, but Chantal Organics can. The Hawke’s Bay-based organic grocery business, started by locals in the 70s, celebrates its 45th birthday this year, and it’s here to stay.

Chantal Organics started life in 1978 when Napier couple, Maureen Ward and Peter Alexander, set up a co-operative of families who wanted to source organic and natural wholefoods that were not available in supermarkets. Back then organic food was seen as niche, the domain of the hippies. No one could have predicted then that demand for this “fringe food” would grow into a global market worth over $215,000 million.

Maureen and Peter were trailblazers for their time and influential in spearheading the organics movement in New Zealand. In 1983, when demand began to grow, they joined forces with friends and set up as a business; opening the Chantal shop in Napier. They stayed at the helm up for 33 more years, driving and evolving the business, before handing the reins to daughter Tess Alexander-Ward and partner Tim Stevens.

In 2016 the shop was separated from the wholesale arm of the business – Chantal Organics – which was bought by Peter Kraus Group, owner of Ecostore. Losing none of its organic ethos, the business went from strength to strength and now employs 40 people across the country, with offices in Napier and Auckland. It operates in retail and wholesale with a wide range of packaged and bulk foods and fresh fruits and vegetables. Their award-winning organic spreads and cereals are still locally produced in the Hawke’s Bay. And with a network of more than 200 organic growers in NZ, Chantal Organics provides fresh seasonal produce to New Zealanders.

Chantal Organics CEO Pablo Kraus says: “Forty-five years is a major milestone for Chantal Organics. It was and continues to be a pioneer of the organics movement in this country. We are so thankful to our wonderful team, who work so hard and help keep the business true to its roots, and for our loyal customers over the past 45 years for supporting the organic mission in Aotearoa. We are honored to be here supporting the health and well-being of New Zealanders.”

The near half-century journey has not been without its challenges though, with more recent concerns including the well-documented impacts of the pandemic and the effects of climate change. Changing weather patterns, including events such as Cyclone Gabrielle, which hit the Hawke’s Bay particularly hard, have meant the business has had to put strategies in place to maintain a sustainable and consistent supply and create food security for its ingredients, including sourcing from a variety of geographical regions.

As is the nature of its business, Chantal Organics takes its commitment to sustainability seriously. Brand Manager, Anne Scholl says: “Consumers want healthy, climate-conscious food that is safe for their families and the planet. Organic produce is being seen as a source of climate action which is having the effect of increasing consumer interest. New Zealand has made huge progress with proposed organic standards which would provide a government-mandated national standard and Parliament is in the process of reviewing legislation to protect and regulate the sector; The Organic Products & Production Bill, passed its 3rd reading in March this year. This is a landmark success. It brings New Zealand a step closer to a robust and internationally recognised organic standard and illustrates the growing demand for organic products in NZ and overseas. We are deeply committed to bettering the world and leading the way by supporting sustainable and organic farming to protect the planet and nourish its people; for the next 45 years and beyond.”

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