From the family garage to a multi-million dollar snack empire

By Monique Steele

A Christchurch company is expanding production of its South African-style dried meat snacks once again to keep up with insatiable demand.

Canterbury Biltong supplied South African-style biltong and bier sticks to supermarkets, convenience stores and gas stations across New Zealand, and exports to around a dozen countries across Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.

The company has earned about $5-10 million a year in revenue in recent years, according to director David Stanley, but he said it was not always so lucrative when he and partner Nicole started out in their family garage in 2002.

"No one really knew what biltong was in those days in New Zealand, and the only people [who] really knew were people who either travelled to South Africa, read Wilbur Smith or were South African," Stanley said.

"In the market stalls, people would think we were selling wood or they called it billabong, all sorts of names. It was hard to get going, but we persevered."

The Canterbury Biltong team in Christchurch. Photo: Supplied / David Stanley
The Canterbury Biltong team in Christchurch. Photo: Supplied / David Stanley
The company spent the early 2000s growing its sales channels domestically.

Production requirements soared even further once it got into Australia.

After hopping around Christchurch's rental production facilities, demand outstripped capacity and it finally built its own factory in Woolston in 2017, with plenty of room to grow.

"We've been here six years now and we're outgrowing it. But there's enough land to put another double the processing area, so we do have lots more capacity," he said.

"We're going to be building onto the factory this year, so by the end of the year we'll basically have enough capacity for the next four or five years.

"We're experiencing some good growth, just getting into more stores. We got into 200 stores in Thailand last week, another chain coming on in Australia and potentially another big chain in the Philippines, so it's all just trying to, I suppose, keep up. That's always the challenge."

Now the company has acquired Auckland company Bootleg Jerky as it branches out into jerky.

David Stanley. Photo: Supplied / David Stanley
David Stanley. Photo: Supplied / David Stanley
Canterbury Biltong started helping out the five-year-old start-up with manufacturing and logistics to assist with their "growing pains" of a domestic network of 250 stores and dreams to export, founder Ash Razmi said.

"As our ambitions soared, so did the challenges of managing logistics on a larger scale," Razmi said.

"It was at this pivotal moment that fate intervened once again, leading us to a fortuitous partnership with Canterbury Biltong."

Razmi said logistics, staff and space were the biggest challenges the company faced in supporting its growth, which led to the sale.

"With Canterbury Biltong at the helm, we can confidently embark on our mission to bring premium jerky to enthusiasts around the world," Razmi said.

Canterbury Biltong processed up to 250 tonnes of export-grade topside beef steak a year, sourced from long-time supplier ANZCO Foods.