Bennetto Natural Foods

FOODSOUTH

Lucy Bennetto first spoke to the team at FoodSouth almost 3 years ago, and it is fitting that 3 years on in her business development journey that Bennetto chocolate became the first commercial client to utilise the new pilot plant facility at FoodSouth.

When she first made contact with FoodSouth, Lucy had been making her own high quality dark chocolate and had a vision to build a business with her organic 70% cocoa drinking chocolate bar that melts beautifully in hot milk. At the time, the planned pilot production facility at FoodSouth had not yet been built, but the team were able to provide Lucy with valuable support, advice and contacts. Lucy kept in touch, attending various FoodSouth Capability Development courses, and touching base at stages along the way.

Lucy was tenacious and committed to her dream and had a clear vision which she truly believed in. Bennetto Natural Foods was born and the 70% pure cocoa Bennetto Drinking Chocolate Bar became a commercial reality in May 2014.

The chocolate is manufactured in Christchurch at NZ Food Group to Lucy’s special recipe using cocoa carefully sourced by Lucy herself. Only Fairtrade certified, Rainforest Alliance Accredited Cocoa is used, and the product is also vegan, made from all organic ingredients, gluten, soy and dairy free, and contains no refined white sugar, preservatives or other artificial additives.

Bennetto drinking chocolate bars went on to win some awards, and this gave Lucy the confidence to expand her range and develop more original recipes. Visits to Australia, Singapore and the Middle East supported Lucy’s desire to export and grow the brand and she has now embarked on the next expansion phase of her business.

As part of this expansion phase, Lucy needed to revisit her packaging. With aspirations to grow volume, plus a move to sustainable and fully biodegradable packaging, the exquisite but costly hand wrapping was not sustainable longer term. Lucy began investigating flow wrapping machines, but would require a food safe space to house it. She got in touch with FoodSouth again and her timing was perfect. We were working on our equipment options for the new facility, and looking at packaging offerings that would be of most benefit to south island food & beverage firms.

With the help of Lucy’s investigations, plus canvassing other potential users, FoodSouth were able to work through the pros and cons of various packaging options and put together a business case to support the purchase of flow wrapping capability at the Lincoln facility. There has since been significant interest in this equipment from other F&B firms who are pleased to have access to this capability in the south island.

An initial trial was run to produce prototypes for Lucy to present at a food show in Australia. Lucy says “It was wonderful being able to have prototypes to take with me to Australia. It really helped a lot as the whole show was a huge success and it was great I was able to show suppliers what the finished product would look like”.

Following that success, a run of 15,000 was flow wrapped and packed into twin packs at FoodSouth, with all the required food safety certification for commercial sale. This included the new Orange, Cardamon and Chilli variant, which has been very well received.

Lucy says that having access to the NZ Food Innovation Network’s FoodSouth hub has been invaluable to her business growth and success because “without the ability to flow wrap bars it was impossible to scale up and automate my production ability. It was also very important that I used the option of sustainable packaging which was only available in the material suitable for this specific flow wrap machine”.

Lucy is already working on the next delicious flavour variants for Bennetto chocolate of Pure Mint and Cuban Black Coffee and has aspirations to continue expansion into target export markets. Throughout this journey Lucy has learnt a lot about the art of chocolate making, and the importance of the right ingredients and tempering conditions. She is now sharing that knowledge and providing training for others interested in learning about the art of chocolate, conducting in-home demonstrations and consultancy.

For more information about Bennetto Natural Foods’ delectable products, company values and where to buy, visit their website: http://www.bennetto.co.nz.

To find out more about the NZ Food Innovation Network, and to get in touch with the team at FoodSouth, visit our website: http://foodinnovationnetwork.co.nz.