“Our aim was simple – to showcase and support the finest New Zealand artisan producers and stock all the ingredients people would need to make delicious gourmet food under one roof.”
When Janene and James Draper founded Farro in 2006 they had no idea of how big the business would eventually grow.
“Our aim was simple – to showcase and support the finest New Zealand artisan producers and stock all the ingredients people would need to make delicious gourmet food under one roof,” explains Janene.
Neither had operated a food business before. Janene was an optometrist with a passion for cooking (“I always had my nose in a cookbook”) and James brought business acumen to their new company as he had previously owned a successful golf driving range business.
It proved the perfect accompaniment of skills. They started off sourcing suppliers for basic ingredients, went around local markets seeking exciting artisan producers whose wares were not being supplied commercially, opened the doors of their first store in Lunn Ave, Mt Wellington in Auckland and the rest is history.
Janene remembers that at the time the area was largely industrial with a smattering of residential housing in the days before the quarry was developed into Stonefields.
Farro was a new concept for the market at the time – although several competitors started at the same time – and so education of what Farro offered was an essential part of building the successful business. It now spans six different stores across Auckland – Epsom, Grey Lynn, Mt Eden, Mt Wellington, North Shore and Orakei as well as an online store.
“People say isn’t it great the business is so successful. But it’s on the back of 15 years of hard work,” says Janene.
“The first two years were tough,” remembers James.
“No one knew the name ‘Farro’. There was a bitumen factory next door.
“But Farro has helped create a lot of change for this area and now it’s a drawcard for a business to base itself here because Farro is an attraction.”
Now Farro is not just their story – it’s the story of all the artisans who have built their own successful businesses off the back of Farro’s success.
Lewis Road Creamery, Pure Delish, Pic’s Peanut Butter and Bostock Brothers are just some of the well-known brands that got their start at Farro.
“What we’re most proud of is that we’ve helped to grow 550 other businesses in New Zealand creating thousands of jobs. That’s really incredible,” says Janene.
The Farro team of over 300 is no different. Many have forged successful careers thanks to Farro.
For example, Farro general manager of operations Hamish Fleming’s first job at Farro was packing bread.
“There are great opportunities for people to grow a successful career at Farro. We really value our highly skilled team,” says Janene.
Three years ago James and Janene stepped back from the business and brought in CEO Bryce Howard to take the business to the next level.
This has left Janene free to follow her passions – new product development, Christmas food kits and the company’s contribution to charities. James has more time to work closely with the finance team.
Janene says that Farro aims to make its customers’ grocery shopping an experience, not a chore.
“We aim to provide our customers with a retail experience that ignites the senses.
“Our team takes the job of selection for our shelves very seriously and work to provide food that also reflects our own desires – free from artificial ingredients, high quality, provides value and of course, are delicious.”
She says the entire team at Farro love to cook and is constantly being inspired by new ingredients, new ideas and exciting recipes.
Farro commits to sharing that inspiration with its shoppers by providing seasonal recipes across the store that tie in with its monthly themes and through Feast, its in-house magazine, which is a showcase of everything great for the month ahead at Farro.
“At Farro, we have a real authenticity around the products we sell,” says Janene.
“You’re likely to see the person making the product in our store telling their story,” adds James.
“Helping people to make an authentic connection to their food is what Farro is all about.”
© Waterford Press Ltd 2021