I recently discovered a very cool, very smart Nelson business that has made such an impact in a very short time I can’t cover everything I like about the people and the business in one column; so here’s part 1 with part 2 to follow next week.
You may remember that the region was hit by a devastating hail storm on Boxing Day 2020 that impacted fruit growing areas across the. In late 2020 Cedenco had closed their juicing plant on Nayland Road and moved the operation to Hawke’s Bay meaning orchardists didn’t have anywhere in the region to send hail damaged fruit for processing into juice, until Jamin Brown from MAD MELON stepped up and offered to buy the fruit and process it into juice.
Jamin Brown owner of Mad Melon in Richmond, is scaling up his fruit juice business to process more apples. A Boxing Day hail storm damaged a significant amount to the Tasman District apple crop
The response was so big it transformed the Mad Melon business from a small start-up manufacturing watermelon juice to one that has become an important part of the fruit and juice sector in the region, including the use and distribution of by-product created by others and Mad Melon.
Mad Melon are a small juicing operation that was established in 2019 when Jamin thought there was a place in the market for a watermelon-based fruit drink that is packed with flavour but without huge amounts of added sugar. “I love watermelon but hate the seeds so wanted to find a way of enjoying it without having to spit out the seeds” says Jamin.
Mad Melon started business processing watermelons that are grown for them in Tonga and today they make a pure watermelon juice as well as using a blend of both apple juice and watermelon juice in their naturally flavoured, no-added-sugar drinks like Melonade.
For Jamin it made sense to ramp up production to help orchardists dispose of damaged fruit and to also take the opportunity to access a significant amount of fruit for his business.
“As soon as the hail hit, I thought these guys are really going to struggle so how could I add value to the damaged fruit, helping orchardists and my business at the same time.”
This attitude of growing a business by helping others and working collaboratively with a range of loosely associated businesses in the region is a refreshing approach for such a new business. Normally the focus for people with a new business is totally on their business but Jamin understands the importance of working collaboratively to grow production in the region and to grow exports of those products.
For this column I want to focus on Jamin Brown, how he got to where he is and what drives his desire to grow a small business into a significant one for the Nelson Tasman region while part 2 will focus on his collaborations and future plans – plans that are exciting.
“I was born in Timaru and grew up in a house truck, I was home schooled in the house truck as we moved around the South Island. We came to Nelson in 2001 for work in the orchard sector and have been here ever since.”
His mum, Celese, who is now part of the Mad Melon team says “look at him now, I am extremely proud of the man he has become and the things he has achieved.”
Jamin’s first job was at Birdhirst Orchards in Motueka as a box maker, “it was my introduction to fruit and we have used a lot of the things we learned there, in terms of production, in this business, we’ve just added little twists to the processes to suit our current needs.”
After working at Birdhirst he worked at Fairview Aluminium in Nelson, owned at the time by Dion Griffiths “I learnt a lot about business from him, he was a real key influencer o my life.” Then it was on to owning a small trucking company from 2013 to 2019 that specialised in hauling in hauling glass sheets.
“Driving along one day and if I thought that when I no longer enjoy truck driving I would leave the industry and do something in the food, medicine or fuel sectors, I picked food.
“I love watermelon, and walked through the supermarket to see what they didn’t have, watermelon juice was one of those things.”
Jamin started out making watermelon juice but he soon found that demand for processing juice in the region is huge, “there’s plenty of raw material but only so many places you can send bulk apple juice so we started our brand. Apple juice didn’t fit in the watermelon brand so we started the Country Fresh Brand for apple and pear juices. We have a gold kiwifruit juice due for release in first week of September for summer as well as a watermelon and pineapple juice.”
In part two of the Mad Melon story I will tell you about the mad Melon people and some of the collaborations Jamin has established as well as a few of, what I think are, secrets to Jamin’s success.
In the meantime he says “The most important things for our business are our fantastic staff and we really want to thank our suppliers, people and customers for their support because it hasn’t been an easy road to get here, without that support we wouldn’t be here. A lot of people want us to be successful and that’s really important.”
Published in the Nelson Mail 20-07-2022