By Andrew Patterson
Two key principles of modern food production, healthy eating and convenience, have been embraced by a small Auckland food company who are producing an innovative range of fresh meal and snack options that tick both boxes.
Tasty Pot is the brain child of husband and wife team Andrew and Natalie Vivian who spotted a gap in the market for a quick, convenient healthy meal option that wasn’t your usual preservative filled, bland tasting option that is often standard supermarket fare these days.
The business has extended its range to include meals, soups and salads all packaged in a way that makes a meal on the run both healthy and satisfying.
Operating out of their small manufacturing base in Onehunga with just 10 staff, Tasty Pot produces all its meals by hand, lavishing the same care and attention on each one in the same way that you would at home.
Andrew Vivian says it’s all part of a philosophy of using fresh local ingredients to produce a meal that not only tastes good but one you can eat with a clear conscience.
“My wife and I had been travelling in Europe for around eight years working for a range of really interesting restaurants and food related businesses.”
“The idea for Tasty Pot first began to emerge when we were in France working in a local restaurant and going to the markets each day buying all this really fresh produce and that inspired us to try and capture that within a range of food products. So we decided to pursue the idea when we got back to NZ.”
“When we did our research we found there was definitely a gap in the market for more healthy food options beyond the limited range that was then available.”
For any food producer, success is about both maintaining the quality of your output but also ensuring the customer has a satisfying experience. However, this becomes even more important when you’re trying to establish yourself in the convenience food category where consumers these days face a multitude of product offerings.
“At the core of what we do, it’s all about the quality, which is why we source local produce whenever we can. We work on the principle that we want our customers to have a great experience everytime they try one of our products.”
“We definitely don’t have any production shortcuts or anything else that is going to impact on quality. We want it to be as though you’ve made it at home, even though you didn’t have to do so.”
These days customers can chose from a range of options when it comes to quick and easy meal options which reflects New Zealand’s increasingly diverse range of tastes.
“Kiwis actually have quite advanced taste buds when you compare us with the rest of the world which probably reflects the fact that we’re a food producing nation. But from a convenience stand point, we’re actually quite a long way behind the rest of the world, particularly when you compare us to Europe and the UK.”
“The real challenge for us was the shelf life issue because if you want it to be fresh and natural with no preservatives or e-numbers then it has to be a short shelf life product.”
“Interestingly, the supermarkets actually said to us that it’s very difficult to make limited shelf products work and so that only encouraged us to prove them wrong.”
Getting customers to buy into the idea that healthy and convenient don’t have to be mutually exclusive features has also been a challenge.
“We wanted to educate consumers that, with our products, you can have it all. In the past, there’s been a very traditional view that if you had the convenience that meant you had to trade off something else such as price, quality or taste. But now people are increasingly realising that you can have the complete package and so that’s what we’ve set out to try and create.”
However, getting the mix right between the test kitchen and bulk production can have its challenges.
“When we first started out I well remember the first pots were in my mother’s kitchen to get the concepts right and we spent a good eight or nine months experimenting and fine tuning the recipes as well as writing the business plan. We also spoke to as many people as we could to confirm we were on the right track.”
“We took on our current facility with a view to growth as well as ensuring we had a production facility that met all the necessary food and health safety requirements that are obviously necessary when you’re in a business like ours.
“We place a lot of importance on really engaging with our customer as we don’t have the big marketing budgets of our larger competitors so for us word of mouth is our most important form of advertising.”
“What we like to do is surprise and delight our customers. We do things like including quirky little stories in our packaging in order to have a bit of fun and actually reward people for taking the time to pick us out of the supermarket chillier. We feel that we owe them to try and make them smile."
“At the core of what we do, it’s really all about the quality of what we make, but we also need to keep developing our brand to stand behind us. In that regard we try to use a tone of voice that’s a little bit cheeky and somewhat quirky which is why if you go to our website www.tastypot.co.nz you’ll find our home page quite entertaining with tractors and chickens moving across the screen.”
Tasty Pot has also developed a range of non-traditional sales channels including schools and petrol stations.
“We’re really passionate about getting healthy food into places like schools and while supermarkets will always be our primary distribution channel, schools and other convenience outlets like service stations are very good for building awareness."
“We also run a programme where we go out and do office lunch shouts so rather than getting in a whole bunch of pizzas we’ll supply a health food option and while it obviously costs us to undertake that type of promotion it’s very effective for getting the product into the hands of potential consumers.”
“Once they’ve tried our products they tend to be sold.”
The challenge of relegating the humble meat pie to second place as the country’s convenience meal of choice may be a daunting one.
However, Tasty Pot is one of a growing number of artesian food producers who are embracing a new type of consumer who in time may well give the meat pie a run for its money.