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Pint-sized company has big ideas

By S V Venkataraman

Friday 28th July 2000

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Kelvin Clout
The government should not be short of advice from small to medium exporters who need assistance to help break into foreign markets.

Kelvin Clout, general manager of Tauranga-based Pinto Fruit Juice Co, says a well-planned export strategy is imperative if growing companies are to survive.

"Large manufacturers and international giants have the requisite contacts and infrastructure to export their products and require little outside assistance. But small and medium enterprises constantly struggle to compete in the international markets. The food and beverage industry in our country is approaching saturation and hence exports are the only solution."

Mr Clout has urged the government to structure appropriate schemes with well-targeted incentives and programmes that would encourage manufacturers to seize opportunities. Global markets were not easy to access; cost-effective market intelligence, information regarding specific regions and, most important of all, the ways and means of finding the right distributor were issues that should be tackled, he said.

"While assistance from the government will be useful, we have also been active," Mr Clout said. "Manufacturers of food and beverage in the Bay of Plenty region have established a cluster group to promote common strategies and address challenges. [Food BOP, set up in 1998, has 40 member companies.] Our activities include examining export opportunities and joint purchasing [of raw materials and services] to obtain better bargaining power."

Pinto had its origins in the mid-1960s when an orchardist and a nurseryman saw an opportunity in the Bay of Plenty's large tonnage of grapefruit.

Geoff Streeter and Peter Kent set about developing equipment to extract juice from grapefruit and settled on a recipe for a high-quality grapefruit drink. The exercise was repeated a few years later with feijoas and the company began making a feijoa and grapefruit drink, which was an instant success. Initial sales were made in unbranded packs for the foodservice and hospitality market.

Mr Clout takes up the story: "One day a bright spark from the local Tauranga Milk Company met Geoff and Peter and the launch of a range of fruit drinks was initiated. As milk was packaged in glass bottles those days, it was logical for the juice to also be packed in glass, specifically the pint glass bottle. The name 'Pinto' stuck."

The company supplies fruit juices and drinks to milk companies throughout New Zealand, as well as leveraging its own brands. The product range has grown with innovations such as New Zealand's first range of carrot and juice blends (Vital2), tangelo drink and Party Punch.

Last year the company was bought by a group of four Tauranga businessmen, Bruce Martin, Graeme Kirk, Wayne Dingle and David Ede. With an annual turnover of $6 million and production capacity of 10 million litres, Pinto is said to be the third largest fruit juice company in the country with a market share of about 10%. The company recently completed a $1 million expansion and refurbishment programme.

"The major challenge facing the company is finding room to grow in a crowded New Zealand beverage market. Our major opportunities centre on developing innovative beverages, primarily from New Zealand sourced juice products for both local and export markets," Mr Clout said.

Export markets include several Pacific islands as well as a joint venture in Taiwan with nine other Kiwi food and beverage exporters. "We have also made our first shipment of juice to Mongolia through a joint venture with a Taranaki dairy farmer and Mongolian partners. We perceive export opportunities in Australia, Asia and the Gulf states."

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