Oamaru's Rainbow spans the Tasman

Rainbow Confectionery's factory in north Oamaru. Photo by Sally Rae.
Rainbow Confectionery's factory in north Oamaru. Photo by Sally Rae.
Rainbow Confectionery Ltd has doubled its capacity with the acquisition of an Australian confectionery plant.

Combined production from Metford Confectionery Pty Ltd, in Newcastle, and Rainbow's Oamaru factory means Rainbow is now the largest privately owned confectionery manufacturer in Australasia.

Rainbow was working hard to get the new plant up and running and planned to re-employ redundant Metford staff, managing director Ray White said. Staff numbers were expected to be about 45. Last year, The Maitland Mercury newspaper reported the Metford plant was closing, leaving 10 people without jobs. Increasing costs of raw materials, wages and energy were blamed for the closure.

In a statement yesterday, Mr White said the plant manufactured many of the same lollies as Rainbow but also came with equipment to manufacture chocolate soft-centred eggs and filled chocolates.

''The new plant adds huge scope to Rainbow's business in both New Zealand and Australia. We already export from New Zealand to Australia but soon we will be driving transtasman trade in both directions.

''It's exciting to be able to apply the industry knowledge and production expertise we've accumulated over the past decade to this new plant and make it profitable again,'' he said.

In 1995, the long-standing Oamaru-based confectionery business Regina was sold to Nestle NZ Ltd, which closed the factory in 2001 and moved production to Australia.

There had been a long history of confectionery-making in the town, ever since Jack McNamara moved Regina Confections Ltd from Dunedin in 1949.

Private investors Patrick Betty, Rod Thornton and Mr White then bought the assets, re-employed many of the redundant staff and started making confectionery again, including jellies, pineapple chunks and party mix.

The trio added new technology and invested in new plant, including the ability to produce jellybeans - the only manufacturer in New Zealand to do so.

It now employs up to 100 staff at the Oamaru factory during the height of the Easter season.

Combined annual production at Rainbow's two plants is expected to be about 9000 tonnes.

sally.rae@odt.co.nz

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