BiograView: What was your motivation to live in New Zealand?
Ingrid: My motivation was a strange one (laughs). I actually went to The Hague to a spiritual conference. They were talking about the future – the waves and so on which were coming. After a while I was so fascinated when they were saying how bad it would become in Europe.
BiograView: What do you mean by ‘waves’?
Ingrid: The different waves in economy and financial waves. Everything goes in waves. There are even war waves. Every so many times there is a war. Shorter and longer waves. Sometimes some waves hit the same point, fall together and then you have a world war. Anyway, in The Hague they were talking about the future and how bad it would become to live in Europe. I couldn’t imagine what it meant to be – ‘bad’. That was for me a point, from the moment that they showed a map of the future. A couple of countries stood out for where it was safe to be and nice to live. One of these countries was New Zealand. The only thing I could remember when I was driving home was New Zealand. When I came home I said to my husband: “You know what, between now and ten years at the latest we will have to leave because everything is going to custard here in Europe. I don’t want to live in such an atmosphere where there is hate and famine.” A year later we were here. Then, everything fell into place very very fast for us as if orchestrated.
BiograView: You were living in Belgium at the time. How long have you been here now?
Ingrid: 19 Years now. We arrived in 2000.
BiograView: When you came to New Zealand, did you find there were any challenges to overcome?
Ingrid: Yeah heaps. When we came to New Zealand we started the pancake factory, through the help of the founder of a state-of-the-art bakery. But we only had our European mind which we brought with us and we couldn’t think differently. New Zealand only has few people and long distances and that was something that we had not really counted on. To do business in Europe you go to a supermarket, you speak to head office. When they say “Fine, we will rate your product and discuss a marketing plan”, that’s it. They then accept your product and send it to all the stores. But here in New Zealand, goodness me, a cooperative had three different head offices in different cities. You have to go to all three, to see whether they will rate your product. When one head office says yes, when you have five different products, they can choose two, but not the three other ones. Then you go to another head office and they choose those three other products. And you can go to the third head office and they only want one. That becomes quite difficult. Then one of them didn’t want a brand on the product, whereas the other two offices were OK with a branded product. That was one difficulty. But that was not the only thing. It’s not just the head office who accepts that you can sell your product to them. You also have to go to each different store to see whether they are OK to bring in your product. You need quite a sales force to go and visit every store because you have to visit them at least once or twice per month. That was a difficulty.
BiograView: Did you get a sales rep to do that or did you do it all yourself?
Ingrid: In the beginning we did it all ourselves. Later on, we got sales people and so on. But you can imagine how much that will cost companies, to have to have sales people on the road all the time. Then you have to try to figure out who is the bakery manager and make an appointment there. The fact that we are in a bakery where the guys start at 4am, you can start visiting them around 6am. But at 10am they all go home. So you only have a very short frame to visit those people. We had to speak to the bakery manager of each store. Then, they can accept your product, or, they can say: “I don’t want this.” Out of so many stores, let’s say 30% will take your product from the beginning. Then you have to do your marketing. But when you do your marketing, it’s very difficult to focus on thirty stores. It’s very complicated in New Zealand, extremely complicated. It costs you a lot of money, a lot of headache and a lot of time, to get it going. Besides the supermarkets you also have to work here with distributors. Beginning 2000, there was not one distributor covering the whole country. You had to work with all these little different ones, who were willing to distribute your products. This came with a problem as you had to send products by three cartons instead of four pallets at the time. The freight cost is also very high because we had to freeze everything. In Belgium for instance, everything is out of the country in two hours. You can do your baking and then, the next day, you send the truck out to deliver it to different stores and it’s all fresh. But not here. You have to cook and freeze it to build up stock. We have huge storage deep freezers. When an order comes in, we can send out the order the same day in a special temperature controlled pick up truck. Most of the time it takes one or two days to deliver. Frozen deliveries to the South Island are expensive. That’s why food in New Zealand costs so much – because of the added freight cost.
BiograView: Is the product sold as a frozen product or does it get defrosted?
Ingrid: It is defrosted. Then the bakeries put a ‘Best by’ date on. We have five days of shelf life. We tried to get a longer shelf life but that’s quite a difficult thing to do if you do not want to get a lower quality. You can make a dryer product and then it stays longer but then our quality is gone and that is not what we want.