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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Two Cowboys on a Journey: pure delish, Auckland - New Zealand

Christmas Cakes

(Learn: * Inspire: **** Amaze: * Live: ****)
(The Two Cowboys Subjective Rate-o-Meter.   )

How do you take charge of your own destiny with two small children and no money? You make something!

This is the first producer we profile in New Zealand. It is also a huge success story showcasing just what is possible with determination, unwavering commitment, and a great team of people. Breakfast cereal in New Zealand, will never just be Weetbix and milk again. Now you can upgrade to something healthy and delicious, with the knowledge that you are supporting a maker, making a difference. Meet Karen Staples and pure delish.

For more than a decade pure delish has been creating quality products that are real, delicious and anything but ‘ordinary’.  Their brand is synonymous with mouth-watering excellence, and they have carved a solid reputation for innovative, category-challenging and award winning products.

They started out small with Karen, owner of pure delish, wanting to make some extra cash for her family at Christmas.  She decided to roll up her sleeves, follow her passion for baking and set out on a mission to make a Christmas Cake that had a bit more of a modern twist than that offered at the time. This modest beginning has led her to where they are today, an innovative and passionate company producing a wide range of products including, 7 different breakfast cereals, snack bars, cookies, slabs and last but not least the famous pure delish Christmas Cakes!


A visit to pure delish is not a normal visit to a food factory. The first thing that strikes you when you arrive is Karen's energy and passion. It is contagious with smiles from her staff everywhere. The second is the aroma of freshly baked cookies. Purely delicious cookies! It is a busy place. You need to know where to stand and not be in the way.

We arrived on a hot mid-Summer's morning at their factory in Mt Wellington, Auckland. Pure delish just moved into a brand new warehouse and company offices. "We've outgrown our space again!" is how Karen greeted us. The demand for pure delish's products keeps increasing, and recently they've started shipping product for export to Australia.

There aren't enough space on the shelf for all the awards that Karen and her people have received over the last few years. Not only did they manage to break into the cereal market, but they've succeeded in creating a whole new category of product that focusses on supporting people on the more natural paleo diet. There is almost a religious following of the pure delish products. I've brought some of the paleo bars home, and never had one. My teenage son (who avoids healthy food at all cost) annexed it, and that was the last I've seen of it.

Pure delish makes everything by hand. At first, this sounds like a less than profitable idea. Especially in fast moving consumer goods. Mechanisation and automation create margin in this category which is notorious for razor-thin profits and huge volumes (i.e. a lot of work for little money). In Karen's case, she decided that she would rather this profit end up in the pockets of her people. It is a differentiator, but also a commitment to employ people that equally benefits financially with her in her business. They all share the satisfaction that comes with making something.

Factory work can be soul crushing boring and repetitive. Karen showed us how employees at pure delish move from role to role, acquiring new skills and helping her to innovate the products as they grow. The ingredients they use are sourced from all over the world. Every nut and every raisin are checked to assure it meets the quality standards of the products that leave this kitchen.

What do you do as a producer when you achieved your goals? You find new ones.

Karen is slowly shifting her focus away from day-to-day production management and business survival, in a very competitive market, towards mentoring and growing her people. Her son recently joined her in the business, and this gives her an opportunity to take stock, reprioritize, and spend more time developing her people. She is now mentoring others to make something.

They all eat lunch together every day.

With this much energy, I cannot wait to see what Karen and her team is determined to do next. Once a maker, always a maker. As she said it: "It is in your bones!" Enjoy!

Hendrik van Wyk

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