Unhappy with the bacon they were buying for their kids, two Matakana parents decided to do something about it. We spoke to Steve Charnley of the Matakana Bacon Company to find out more about how they cut through the bacon industry porkies.
What is your company background, how did you start the business?
“Back in February 2016 my daughter was having a sleepover at her friend's house just up the road. Her friend's dad, Matt, was cooking up some bacon and we were complaining about the amount of water coming out of the bacon. It was not how we remembered bacon when we were kids! We then noticed that the bacon ingredients included nitrates and sugar and we were dumbstruck! We suddenly realised that we were feeding our kids with dangerous chemicals and the dreaded sugar. Next, we looked around the supermarket for more healthy options and alas, there were none. Every brand had sugar! Even the brands that proclaimed they were chemical free had sugar! On top of that, some of the brands were importing their pork from countries like Canada, Finland and Denmark. We asked ourselves why no-one was making quality, healthy bacon from ethically sourced pigs right here in NZ?”
“So, we embarked on a plan to make our own bacon just for us and close friends. After weeks and weeks of research and trials, we perfected a cure that made beautiful bacon that was completely nitrate and sugar-free! However, we found it was very difficult to slice thinly, so we approached our local butcher in Matakana, and he sliced it for us. Everyone who tasted our bacon was completely enamoured with it and begged us to start making more. To do that we needed a licensed premises, so we approached our local butcher, Matt Watts once again. He was a bit reticent at letting us use all his facilities, chillers, freezers, smokehouse, packaging etc., so we offered him an equal partnership in the business. The only intention at this stage was to make enough each week for ourselves and to sell at the Matakana Village Farmers' Market.”
“By now it was late May and we started doing tastings at the market and selling a few packets to locals and visitors alike. It wasn't long before we once again started to get positive reactions to our bacon and production increased. By October, we decided to create the Matakana Bacon Company and register it as a fully fledged business. From there we grew to the stage we are at now by supplying local Four Squares plus the butcher shop of course. Five months later and we are now producing between 50-70kg per week and are looking at expanding into some selected New World supermarkets.”
What are the current product range and variants?
“The current range includes two types of bacon, Loin and Streaky. They are both dry cured, manuka smoked and contain no nasty chemicals or sugar.”
Has there been any recent company news?
“Yes, just two weeks ago we were very proud to have been nominated as a finalist in the ‘Outstanding NZ Food Producers Awards’. In fact, we are the only bacon left in the competition! The winners will be announced at the end of April. We are now in the process of adding to the range by curing fore-loin/shoulder bacon to deliver a product with a lower price point. It will still taste the same but will utilise the shoulder and scotch fillet of the pig. We are also experimenting with leg bacon. We've tried it out at a few recent festivals and the customers loved it as it is perfect bacon for sandwiches and rolls, being very lean. This bacon will be great for kid's lunch boxes as kids don't really like fatty bacon once it's cold.”
What are the plans for the business moving forward? Is there any expansion on the horizon?
“Right now, we are growing slowly as new retailers come on board. The reason for that is quality and consistency of the product is paramount for us. In our business plan there is provision for moving into new premises so that we can expand the business and expand the range.”
Where are your products currently available to buy?
“Currently our bacon is available online for greater Auckland delivery, in Four Square stores in Matakana, Mangawhai, Wellsford and Mt Albert plus the Village Butcher in Matakana and, of course, the Matakana Village Farmers' Market – where it all began.”