Griffin's moves biscuits to Fiji

Some of the nation's favourite biscuits are no longer true Kiwi institutions, with Griffin's outsourcing some of its production to Fiji after more than 140 years of New Zealand manufacture.

Griffin's came clean about the biscuits' origins after The Dominion Post asked why the "Buy New Zealand Made" logo had disappeared from some biscuit packets.

The company confirmed "some production" of cream biscuits had been outsourced since November. A spokesman said this was because demands had exceeded the Auckland factory's production capacity.

Griffin's would not disclose which biscuits had been outsourced, or what proportion of production.

It said the recipe had not changed and the company did not believe the political situation in Fiji would affect the company.

The "Buy New Zealand Made" logo has gone from the cream biscuit range – which includes Cameo Cremes, Belgian Cremes, Lemon Treats, Melting Moments and Swiss Cremes and accounts for 2.5 per cent of Griffin's' total biscuit production. It has also been dropped from Lemon Treats.

Green Party trade spokesman Keith Locke said he was concerned that Griffin's could be exploiting poor worker conditions in Fiji. "There is effectively a dictatorship in Fiji [which] has undermined the ability of unions to operate freely and to maintain or improve the conditions of the workers."

The move offshore was the latest "sad sign" of the drift of New Zealand industrial jobs overseas, Mr Locke said.

Victoria University senior international business lecturer Joanna Scott-Kennel said consumer response to the outsourcing could go either way.

"It's not necessarily the case [that consumers will react negatively] but I think that, if handled poorly, it could lead to a [bad] outcome."

Service and Food Workers Union northern regional secretary Jill Ovens was unaware that any biscuit production was now overseas. "It's a surprise to me – I thought it was all made here."

However, she thought it was a mistake for Griffin's, which had been manufacturing biscuits in New Zealand since 1864.

The firm closed its Lower Hutt factory – with 228 job losses – last December, and relocated production to Auckland. It has been owned since 2006 by Australian-based Pacific Equity Partners, which also owns the Hoyts Group and Tegel Foods.

It had revenue of $241 million last year, but posted a loss of $14.6m.

A MATTER OF TASTE

The Dominion Post took to Wellington's streets to see if people would notice the difference between Kiwi-made and Fijian-made Cameo Cremes. After blind-tasting, subjects were asked which biscuit they preferred and what they thought of the shift offshore.

Nicholas Marshall, scaffolder, 24, Wellington.

Preferred the Fijian-made biscuits. Would rather have New Zealand-made one, but likes "whichever tastes good.

Justine Sagar, Weta employee, 35, Wellington:

Preferred the homegrown biscuit and thought the newcomer tasted "cheaper". She had concerns over job losses and the carbon footprint from offshore food production. "It's a Kiwi classic, it's nice to keep it in New Zealand, and [now] the quality's gone down."

Jeantine Pulsford, teacher, 58, Auckland

Preferred the homegrown and was disappointed with the shift overseas. "I'm very conscious of where things are made."

William Shaw, pupil, 15, Wellington

Preferred the offshore biscuit, but did not like either very much, because he "could probably make this biscuit better".

Renata Burt, student, 22, Wellington

Liked the offshore one, which was sweeter, softer, and had more cream. She preferred to buy Kiwi-made food, and was surprised to learn Fiji was producing the new biscuits. "Wasn't there a coup happening, and they're making biscuits there?"

The Dominion Post