I am continually amazed at the number of businesses I come across that I didn’t know started their journey in Nelson, one such business is Hill St Wholefoods, a business that makes and sells baking mixes that are now sold in supermarkets around New Zealand and are about to hit the shelves in Australia.
Hill St Wholefoods is co-owned by Eliana Glover who grew up in Hill St, Richmond where she started developing her products, products that aren’t the old-fashioned baking mixes you’re used to seeing on the shelves in the supermarket, you know the sort – pre-made scone mix, just add water/milk mix and cook. No, these are interesting, tasty mixes designed for everyone, from kids to people with fd intolerances.
A couple of weeks ago I talked with Eliana when she was working from her Auckland office, I wanted to find out a bit more about how growing up in Nelson influenced her business and how she managed to get to the stage she is at now in such a short time – she started the business in 2019 making this a very fast-growing food business.
She grew up in a family that is still heavily involved in growing and processing produce, particularly berry fruit, and that had a big influence on her business direction, Eliana told me that while she had previously worked in the ski industry she has always loved food and had become increasingly aware that “allergies and food preferences were changing the way we think, bake and eat.
“I’m not a great baker at all, but I think that helped me to identify the gap in the market for a baking mix that meets the needs of the modern baker. I wanted a product that catered to food preferences and allergies of those around me and didn’t break the bank. It was tough to find anything that met that criteria, and after a little research it became apparent that there was room for someone to shake up the baking mix category, an area that was dominated by traditional brands like Betty Crocker.
“I’ve actually found being a bit of an amateur at baking an asset in this space, it means I can really relate to our customers and make sure all our products are truly fail proof.”
When Eliana first launched she went all in with a big marketing and PR campaign to help spread the word that there was a new baking mix on the block. “During our launch campaign we saw huge interest from customers and stores across New Zealand. A month or so after launch I received an email from one of the Foodstuff’s Category Managers asking for a meeting (a very exciting day for us!). We’re now stocked in New Worlds and Pak’n’Saves across New Zealand, they’ve been so supportive from the word go.”
Then on Christmas Eve she found out her Hill St baking mixes had been accepted into Woolworths Australia, “there’s a container full of product just about to hit the shelves in 500 stores across Australia this week.”
This huge growth raised all sorts of questions in my mind, primarily around how Eliana could manage the manufacturing challenges, “setting up a food manufacturing operation is a complicated and expensive process, there’s a lot of specialty equipment and so many regulations to comply with . We chose to use a contract manufacturer to start with as we didn’t want to expose ourselves to the risk for what was really a concept at the start. Another consideration is that my skill set isn’t aligned to being a specialist factory manager. Instead, we focused on finding an amazing manufacturer that is agile and can grow with us.’
As well as just making more product there’s been a lot of new product development going on at the same time. “Our kids baking kits have to be one of my favourite products, we launched them at the end of 2020 to an amazing response! Gifting a Kids Baking Kit is a great way get mini bakers into the kitchen and teach them valuable baking skills. I absolutely love seeing the snaps and videos of budding bakers creating with our kits!”
When it comes to recipe development Eliana says she had a little bit of external help to get started but now does it in-house, “while we have a contract manufacturer we do all our own development, design and marketing, and we’re always looking at how we can be more sustainable, from sourcing ingredients right through to how the packaging is disposed of.”
“Having a small team of three people driving the business gives us a lot of agility to move quickly to meet market demand and develop new products.
“As well as being easy and delicious, our mixes are doing good things for our planet too, our packaging is either recyclable or compostable (and always sustainably sourced), and we do our best to partner with other local producers where possible.”
The box I received had some Pic’s Peanut butter slugs (small pouches) to go with the dried mix. “Pic’s Peanut Butter have always been really supportive and were great to work with when developing our Choc Peanut Butter Afghans, you can even find some of our products at Peanut Butter World.”
This little business that started in Nelson’s great supportive food community that Eliana refers to as “the mecca of food in New Zealand” is on a fast-track, wild, exciting ride into the future of pre-mix baking products and one we can watch with a sense of local pride while we sit back and taste the results of using a Hill St Wholefoods baking mix. www.hillst.co.nz
Published in the Nelson Mail -7.04.2021