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Corson goes with the grain

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 Daniel Prenter became Corson chief executive in July, after 19 years in food production Daniel Prenter became Corson chief executive in July, after 19 years in food production Photo: Liam Clayton

Published: December 4, 2017 2:48PM

New management team at Corson focused on extending its maize-based product mix.

NEW BOSS: Daniel Prenter became Corson chief executive in July, after 19 years in food production and food packaging for the meat, horticulture and dairy sectors. He is originally from Hawke’s Bay. Picture by Liam ClaytonThe continuing trend towards healthy, safe food is helping to propel Gisborne-based food ingredients company Corson into the future.

Armed with a new management team and dedicated product development manager, Corson plans to capitalise on the immense opportunities in new maize-based products and markets, says chief executive Daniel Prenter.

Eastland Community Trust would like to distribute $4.5 million to economic development projects this financial year, effectively doubling the fund it makes available for economic development in the region.

The announcement, made in August, represents a step change for the organisation, which has streamlined its approach to economic development following a review of its funding process and the amalgamation of Activate Tairawhiti. But the trust needs good opportunities to back.

ECT chief executive Gavin Murphy says the trust is entering exciting times.

“There’s a commonly held aspiration for our community – one where business thrives, whanau have access to sustainable and well-paid jobs, and communities prosper. Whether working at a regional, community or hapu level, our region is blessed with a community-held fund that can support real transformation.”

There are two funds that organisations can apply to.

The Economic Investigation and Research Fund is designed for those who have a new or innovative business idea but need to test its viability, feasibility or impact further. It’s a contestable fund with $30,000 per initiative and up to $500,000 available for distribution.

“With this fund, we hope to empower smaller or new business to make outstanding decisions and to support those initiatives that incrementally improve the business environment,” says Mr Murphy.

“We are looking to fund research and reports that enable local businesses to minimise risk, and identify and quantify opportunities for growth and job creation further down the track.”

Meanwhile, the Regional Economic Growth Fund is designed to allow ECT to deliberately intervene by investing in or supporting new and growing businesses — creating jobs and increasing GDP. The trust has made $4 million available in this fund.

In recent times organisations such as Hikurangi Bioactives have benefitted from these funding pools, with ECT supporting early-stage research and clinical trials on the Coast.

“In the long-term, these funds have the potential to ensure our community can take charge of its economic future, particularly when combined with the efforts of organisations like Hikurangi Bioactives and with the support of critical regional partners — Activate Tairawhiti, the council and iwi.”

The trust is actively seeking applications for both funds and is looking for projects with the potential to create sustainable, well-paid jobs, enhance business diversity and increase GDP, and align to the region’s key economic drivers.

Those interested can find more information at:

“Developing new food ingredient products is our real focus.

“This will extend our current product mix supplying into the cereal, snack and bakery categories.”

Corson's a household nameCorson has been a household name since Thomas Corson senior shifted here from Hawke’s Bay in 1902, in the belief Gisborne would develop faster.

The company began as a one-man grain and seed broker and manufacturers’ agent, and developed — after adding a major Queensland maize products company to the mix in 2003 — into reputedly the largest maize miller in Australasia.

Corson remains family-owned and has two family members on the board.

Mr Prenter took up the role as chief executive in July. Originally from Hawke’s Bay, he has 19 years of experience in food production and food packaging for the meat, horticulture and dairy sectors.

He was attracted to the role because of consumer trends towards healthy food choices and healthy products, and the potential maize products have within this wider trend.

“Our relatively new team is fortunate to have inherited a strong business that has been well-managed by Thomas and John Corson over many decades.

“We are extremely appreciative of the support from our loyal grower base from Wairoa and Gisborne to Tolaga Bay, which supplies 100 percent of our New Zealand maize,” Mr Prenter said.

“And we’re fortunate we have an experienced, loyal workforce of 25 in Gisborne.

“That loyalty, and skill base, enables us to consistently produce a quality product. We also enjoy strong customer relationships with New Zealand domestic and multinational markets.

“We are a business-to-business supplier.

“We don’t make consumer products ourselves, but there are some segments we don’t currently participate in. Part of our new product development agenda is identifying and filling the gaps.

“Gaining access into new markets will involve further processing of our current mill range.”

Mr Prenter said new product development manager Nicky Solomon, who has a PhD in food science, will help the company capitalise on recognised new-product opportunities.

“We have to make sure our investment decisions position us well for the evolving market.

“For instance, there is a market trend away from traditional breakfast cereals towards snack-style breakfast eating like Up&Go and snack bars. This is a something we have to move with.

“We need to stay relevant within that breakfast and snack space.”

Popcorn, Mexican food and bakery products were also growth areas, he said.

“Popcorn is a $22 million category in New Zealand. It has come into vogue and is seen now as a healthy snack food because it’s popped dry. Ready-to-eat, popped popcorn is a growth category on supermarket shelves.

“The development of the Mexican category is particularly good for us, with corn chips and tortilla being maize-based. Our grain ingredients go into products like Doritos and GrainWaves.”

Mr Prenter said one of the company’s strengths was that it mills a single variety of grain.

“So we can guarantee we are wheat-free, for instance. All our products are free of allergens, gluten and genetically modified organisms. It is a safe option from that perspective.”

'It's good for us and it's good for Gisborne'The international focus on food safety and place of origin will continue to benefit Corson.

“Food safety is an important part of our ability to build strong relationships, a strong point of difference and definitely a lever for developing opportunities in Asia. Gisborne’s — and New Zealand’s — isolation will play a strong part in the future.

“We’re exporting more from New Zealand and Australia.

“There’s huge growth and excitement for us in the Asian bakery market as people there aspire to a more Western-style diet.

“In Seoul there’s a bakery on every second corner. Five years ago, they did not exist.

“People are eating less rice and more cereals, burgers, and bakery and pastry products.”

Mr Prenter said dietary change and concern for food safety, coupled with an enormous population, equates to huge potential.

“It’s good for us and good for Gisborne.”

| Source: Gisborne Herald   || December 4,  2017   |||