Bait firm in city catches NZ 'first'
Invercargill company Back Country Cuisine has diversified into the non-food market, creating a business believed to be the only one of its kind in New Zealand.
The company, which specialises in Freeze Dri meals, has set up The Freeze Dri Bait Company and started supplying recreational fishermen.
Owner Brent Crossan said diversification would help the business grow and he did not want to put all his eggs in one basket.
He believed the company was the only one in New Zealand selling the product and orders were piling up.
"We are growing comfortably but I don't want to put all my eggs in one basket and it has worked. The orders are coming in fast," Mr Crossan said.
The company exports more than 80 products to Australia, South Africa, Singapore, Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong. Its only competitor is in the United States.
In the freeze-drying process, crystals of frozen ice in the food are sublimed (evaporated) to water vapour in a vacuum chamber. The result is a completely dry product that does not shrink during the drying process.
A keen recreational fisherman, Mr Crossan had experimented with freeze-dried bait.
He discovered it worked well and believed this was because the Freeze Dri process intensified the flavour of the bait.
The Freeze Dri bait had been tested around the North Island and in Australian waters during the past year. Each week, South Fish would supply the business with about two tonnes of fresh squid and other bait, sourced from New Zealand waters and Mr Crossan said he hoped to produce about 3000 packets of Freeze Dri bait.
The squid and bait must be food-grade when delivered to the company but could be downgraded to "not for human consumption" after it was packaged.
About 1 million boxes in a storeroom would be packed with the bait, which Mr Crossan expected to sell quickly. "The potential here is quite big," he said.
The product would be attractive to fishermen because it was almost weightless, and fishermen would no longer need to lug ice aboard vessels or worry about bait going off.
About 210 stores in Australia were waiting for the product, which would be delivered next week, he said.
Bait would also be sold at Hunting & Fishing and Top Catch stores in New Zealand.
The company is at production capacity of 6500 ready meals each day, but an investment in a new freeze drier will allow the company to expand further.
The drier was specifically designed for the company and will be delivered to the premises next week. It will produce 1 tonne of any product each night.
The drier allowed the company to accept an overseas contract to produce 3500 meals for the next two years.
- © Fairfax NZ News