For a man who wanted to be a policeman when he left school, Dene McKay has come a long way in his relatively short business career. He took over the reins of Premier Beehive NZ Ltd in September last year following the departure of previous part owner and managing director John Kippenberger and now heads up New Zealand’s number one manufacturer and supplier of prepacked bacon and ham.
The company has gone through a few changes since it began as a pig processor in Wairarapa’s Carterton in 1991 but it has seen huge growth with business doubling in the past nine years.
McKay can take much of the credit for this growth in his eight years with the company as its head of national sales and marketing because it now produces over 12,000 tonnes of bacon, ham and smallgoods worth over $100 million annually – and still growing.
The original Premier Bacon company was bought out in 2007 and 12 months later the Beehive brand launched into the New Zealand market. In turn, in 2012, it was sold again to the major Australian player, Primo Smallgoods.
But that wasn’t the end of it. Last year Primo and its New Zealand Premier Beehive subsidiary was sold in a one and a half billion dollar deal to the world’s largest Protein company and second largest food company, the Brazilian food giant JBS.
Through all of this, McKay held firm and has now taken an exploding top role at the local operation, a role that will see much greater expansion into new categories and continue to build a launching pad for export into Asia and beyond.
McKay has always been in the food industry starting out with Cadbury in the Wellington region undertaking many roles across his twelve years and then a further eight years with Nestle. His first role with Nestle was in the foodservice sector and with his confectionery experience, moved to head up the impulse channel and later as national sales and snacking manager for the confectionery division.
When he began with Premier Beehive, McKay led a small sales and marketing team that has now grown to 21 strong and Auckland-based, while the Wairarapa manufacturing plant continues to expand its 220 workforce. After being schooled in Wellington’s Tawa suburb, he didn’t expect to be groomed for such an industry-leading role. Now married to Deanne and with three children later, he still has time to indulge his passion for soccer. Earlier, he had played football at a senior and national level, but now is content to indulge this passion with coaching at Three Kings United at a senior men’s level along with spreading himself across his children’s grades.