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Monday, 16 September 2019 09:20

Adding value not bulk

Written by  Nigel Malthus
Tony and Afsaneh Howey take their organic blackcurrant business, ViBERi, to the public at the recent Go Green expo in Christchurch. Photo: Rural News Group. Tony and Afsaneh Howey take their organic blackcurrant business, ViBERi, to the public at the recent Go Green expo in Christchurch. Photo: Rural News Group.

While conventional growers would aim for a yield of about 10t/ha, Tony Howey aims for about 5t/ha.

He says the ViBERi business model is all about added value.

When they started there was only a little organic blackcurrant concentrate being imported.

“No-one else was doing organics of any consequence,” he told Hort News. “We realised there wasn’t a market sitting there waiting. We had to develop the market and the brand.”

Howey leases space at a coolstore in Washdyke where all the initial destrigging, size and colour grading and packing is done with the berries in a deep frozen state. 

ViBERi’s first product was a simple pack of free flow frozen berries.

The product range now includes powders, chocolate covered freeze dried berries, soft dried berries infused with organic apple juice, and a couple of white chocolate coated lines -- one dusted with the deep purple powder.

The powder is made from freeze dried berries and can be used for smoothies, yoghurt and decoration, giving both colour and flavour. The Howeys sprinkle it on their breakfast cereal.

“It’s so good,” says Afsaneh. “Because it’s raw it’s just like eating fresh or frozen so it’s convenient.”

They plan to expand online sales while continuing to develop product ideas.

The couple also take their enthusiasm for blackcurrants on the road, presenting their products directly to the public at events such as the recent Go Green expos. 

Howey says a lot of collaboration arises at such shows when exhibitors meet up and explore ways to use each other’s products in combination.

Less than half their production now goes to retail. The Howeys have powders and dried or frozen berries going as ingredients in about 25 other branded products including breakfast cereals, smoothies, juices and supplements.

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