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A chip off the old block

Iconic chip factory hits milestone birthday

SCOTT MORGAN
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2013
Anna Story, Rob Grant and Dave Gilmore
Scott Morgan

LOYAL WORKERS: Long-serving Bluebird employees Anna Story, Rob Grant and Dave Gilmore reflect on the company’s history during its 60th anniversary.

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Bluebird employees are celebrating six decades of transforming the humble spud into crunchy chips.

The Wiri-based snack manufacturer, which has also been based in Mt Eden and Otara, turns 60 this year.

Forty-seven-year veteran Dave Gilmore says there have been massive change at the company since he started.

Back in the day piles of 20kg bags of potatoes were kept on site to produce the chips, with space often running out.

"You used to dig down for the rotten spuds. They'd say ‘what's that smell' when you went into the cafe," Mr McPherson says.

Now potatoes get trucked in daily.

He's also seen several owners of the Bluebird brand come and go, with Goodman Fielder, Graham Hart's Burns Philp & Co and most recently PepsiCo purchasing the company.

Packaging machine operator Anna Story has been at Bluebird for 37 years and never considered leaving.

"It was my second job when I came here from the Cook Islands," she says.

"Why would I find another job if I've already got a good job?"

She says changes in technology have made a huge difference, making it easier and faster to produce products.

"Now we've got a robot area. In the old days people used to stack cartons on the pallets."

A little bit of Kiwi ingenuity was often used to make the chips taste good.

"Sometimes we used a concrete mixer to add flavour, then we'd take them out. It's much different these days."

Warehouse worker Rob Grant, who's also been at Bluebird for 37 years, says many employees didn't have far to travel far to work when the factory was in Lovegrove Cres, Otara, during the 1970s and 1980s.

"Back in the old days everyone used to walk to work - it was so close.

"Some used to walk along by the creek," he says.

But being located by Otara Creek also allowed access for some unwanted guests.

"Street kids used to pinch the rubbish - the chips that were not coloured or flavoured properly," he says.

"You'd come in in the morning and see a big plastic bag walking by itself. You'd yell out and the kids would run off."

Bluebird group brand manager Jodene Nigro says the company is looking forward to holding a celebration for employees marking the 60th anniversary at Rainbow's End later in the year.

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- Manukau Courier

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