Streamlined chocolate production
Waikato Valley Chocolates is now operating from a brand new purpose-built facility at Northgate Business Park in Horotiu near Hamilton city.
Previously operating from a converted cheese factory for nearly 40 years, company director, Hans Vetsch, says the new facility has greatly increased efficiencies and set the company up for future growth.
The new 3200 square metre facility is double the size of the previous company premises and also accommodates all aspects of the business on one site as opposed to various parts of the business being spread out around the city.
Constructed by Apollo Projects, building commenced in March 2016 and Waikato Valley Chocolates has just taken up residence.
Made from structural steel with concrete panel and insulated panel, the facility comprises offices, food grade factory, warehousing and storage facilities. This is a big move for the company that previously had its warehousing and storage facilities located apart from the factory.
Hans says moving to one site will create many process efficiencies resulting in a more streamlined operation.
Situated exactly 110 kilometres from both the port of Tauranga and the ports of Auckland, Hans says that the location provides good access to the North Island main trunk railway and to the new Waikato Expressway providing the ideal hub from which to conduct business.
Waikato Valley Chocolates had its beginnings in the seventies but was purchased in 1994 by the current group of shareholders. The company employs around 40 staff who work in three shifts five days a week. Waikato Valley Chocolates supplies a number of key retail customers, along with industrial
customers and tourism operators.
The company also imports selected ranges for the retail trade.
The majority of the company’s production capacity is dedicated to The Warehouse and in particular an extensive range of Easter products.
There is also a number of key ranges including chocolate coated products such as scorched almonds, chocolate raisins and chocolate peanuts.
New product development is important to keep up with changing trends and it is the job of Waikato Valley Chocolates to offer new ideas to its clients, says Hans.
“We examine trends and see what we think will work for our customers and enhance their business. Customers can also come to us with their own ideas,” he explains. For example, chocolate Easter eggs with
popping candy in the centre was one trend.
With the move towards healthier eating items that can be shared at Easter time the company has designed ranges which include a number of smaller items for a family to enjoy together. Premium products include dark chocolate strawberries to cater to yet another market segment while old favourites such as hokey pokey clusters are uniquely Kiwi.
Waikato Valley Chocolates also produces a range of hollow products and tablet chocolate products including fruit and nut, forest fruit, coconut rough, hokey pokey and milk chocolate.
“Waikato Valley Chocolates puts the customer first and is proud to have long standing relationships with our key partners to provide the best quality product to our customers.
We are also flexible when it comes to coated products.
We can coat almost anything from jellybeans, popcorn to pretzels and more.
Our customers can come to us with an idea and will coat it for them,” says Hans.
The new facility gives Waikato Valley Chocolates the potential to raise production by at least 20% says Hans, positioning the company well for future growth opportunities with an eye to the export market.
Specialists in design and construction for the food and beverage sector, Apollo Projects could offer considerable expertise to Waikato Valley Chocolates for the company’s new facility at Northgate Business Park in Hamilton.
Early contractor involvement, the result of an informal relationship developed with Waikato Valley Chocolates years previously, allowed Apollo Projects to offer considerable value in the concept design phase, says Grant Black, Apollo Projects’ business development manager.
Due to a pre-existing relationship with the developer of Northgate Business Park, Apollo Projects was also able to offer expertise in terms of ensuring the site and overall development would meet the client’s needs in terms of infrastructure requirements.
Grant says this is where the detailed approach that Apollo Projects’ takes came to the fore.
“For example the site needed to be oriented to the south so that truck manoeuvring areas and canopies were shaded during the day.
Otherwise concrete slabs on the site would have heated up and hindered the flexibility of the client’s operation if boxes were unable to be left on concrete etc,” he explains.
“That’s the kind of detail we get into on a project – really understanding the client’s business and their specific needs. We develop a really close relationship with the client, work through detail, discuss the various options and various scenarios of how things could be configured to work best for them.”
It’s a vital aspect of the project and one which really came to the forefront on this particular job.
Previously Waikato Valley Chocolates had operated from a site that had been developed organically over time and because of this had not been configured correctly to maximise efficiencies.
Grant says the challenge for Apollo Projects was to understand the requirements and then incorporate these effectively into a design so the client could benefit from the efficiencies of a new custom built facility created on a greenfields site.
The resulting facility includes 2000 square metres of production space, 800 square metres of finished goods warehousing and 300 square metres of offices.
The facility had very specific requirements not only in terms of food hygiene but also in terms of temperature – cool for raw product, hot for the melting area, cool for storage areas etc.
“It was a matter of creating these various environments in a very efficient way so there was as little loss of energy during the process as possible,” says Grant.
The construction itself was straightforward, he says, due to the company’s vast experience in the food and beverage sector.
“We really get into each project from an operator point of view and provide a facility that exceeds expectations and this is a good example of that,” he says.
Apollo Projects was started in 2001 and is a turn-key specialist in controlled environments focusing on design and construction management of food and dairy processing facilities, wineries and breweries, cold stores, warehouses and sports and aquatic facilities.
The company has over 40 professional project delivery and support staff spread across New Zealand.
As a national operator, this benefits clients with national operations, says Grant.
As testament to the company’s success Apollo Projects regularly works with major national companies including Fonterra, Goodman Fielder, George Weston Foods,
Ngai Tahu and Lion Co as well as private owneroperated businesses, sports organisations and Government/Council entities.
“Leveraging our theoretical and practical understanding of project buildability leads to a
more cost-effective design.
Over the past 15 years Apollo Projects has evolved and grown, but the core principle has stayed the same – to really focus on optimising each design to suit the specific needs of the client to enhance their business operations.”