“When Peter founded Greenlea in the early 1990’s it was quite a tough time to be opening a meat plant.”
Greenlea Meats has two plants operating out of sites in Hamilton and Morrinsville.
Operations Manager Aaron Craig has been with the family-owned company for well over 20 years and is based at its Kahitatea Drive, Hamilton site.
Founded in 1993 by Peter Egan, who got his first taste of the meat industry in the 1960’s at the family’s Gisborne butchery, today the Governance reins have been passed on to son James, chairman of the Greenlea board of directors, while nephew Tony is Greenlea’s managing director.
Peter’s other son Simon and daughter Caroline also have seats on the Board.
“When Peter founded Greenlea in the early 1990’s it was quite a tough time to be opening a meat plant. Other plants at that time were failing and back then the Hamilton plant was processing 160 animals each day which quickly grew to 220 per shift within three years .”
Then in 1997, the opportunity to expand presented in the form of purchasing the company’s Morrinsville site. “Significant investment occurred at the Morrinsville site growing processing numbers from 110 per shift to 220 each shift,” Aaron explains.
This commitment to continually reinvest into the company in the form of improving and modernising plant has created the capacity it enjoys today – processing upward of 600 animals per day on each site.
Greenlea Meats sustainable growth pathway was fixed when a long term plan was established in 2005 , heralding a second phase of significant growth in 2008, including commissioning of a fully-automated blast tunnel in Hamilton, the first of its kind in the world.
“We went through developing a new collective agreement in 2012, and increased production by 25%. Greenlea has always had a strong focus on family values and care for its team of hard-working professionals.”
Another milestone for the company happened in 2013 when it was accepted for exporting product into China, which remains a focus market.
“We certainly utilise all parts of the carcass these days, from standard, to high-end cuts and with the plant we have we can programme a carcass to be processed in specific ways for each order. It means we are very flexible in what we can provide to our customers, locally and overseas.”
Prior to China opening up for Greenlea, the company was very reliant on the US which is still a critical market and Greenlea’s second largest.
The plant is also geared to deliver packaging and labelling required by each customer.
“We have some very smart IT and Marketing people on board making all this happen.”
Aaron stresses that one of the key reasons the company is flourishing is its commitment to deliver high standards in all areas of health and safety, food safety, processing and packaging systems that meet and exceed regulatory standards and customer requirements from all over the world .
aron says while the Covid crisis did have a significant impact in being able to move product as ports shut and borders closed, the fact that these markets shifted up and down at different times was key to enabling Greenlea to work through successfully and divert product to alternative market as required .
“It was a case of putting into place plans we had already set for such a situation supported by a marketing history where we hadn’t put all our eggs in one basket.”
Greenlea Meats contributes to the well-being of thousands of people through sponsorship of the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter, based in Taupo and operated by the Phillips Search & Rescue Trust.
During Covid, the company reached out in other ways to support local communities struggling to cope, with the Greenlea Foundation provided mince packs, to the value of $250,000 to St Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army. “We also received direct support from our own farmer suppliers, customers and staff who collectively donated well over $120,000.”
Aaron says he’s proud of the way the Greenlea team operated through the challenging months Covid brought last year, citing the fact that the company didn’t apply for the Government wage subsidy and didn’t lose any staff. He says it was both humbling and impressive to see their “can do” attitude shine through.
© Waterford Press Ltd 2021