Don’t say anything, but did you know that Todd Heller was a bikie? Well in act he still is, but if you’re curious, it’s all about pushbikes. These days now that he is no longer involved everyday in the small goods giant of his family name, he’s out for a daily ride along with his wife Marion and does at least two overseas bike riding trips every year. This avid bike rider rode the length of the Tour de France last year and covered 3600 kms in just six weeks.
His enthusiasm is a little overwhelming for Marion who accompanies on the daily run for about 60/70kms and then catches the bus back.
But biking is not the only interest. He has been involved and earlier played rugby for the Albion Club in Christchurch and is now a Linwood Club trustee. And we are jealous of his golf handicap of 15. After a lifetime in the meat business, he now has a chance to stand aside and look at future planning, and there’s plenty of it for the company.
Having started out in a New Brighton butcher’s shop in 1985, he launched out with Todd Heller Meats in Kaiapoi eight years later. With a huge range of sausages, it wasn’t long before supermarkets came knocking on his door (out the back door of course), the business expanded rapidly and ran out of room – the rest is history.
Accountant Nick Harris joined him and the enterprise went through name changes and added directors, products and promotions. By 2003 he partnered up with the Rangatira Trust (better known as the JR McKenzie Trust) and the business was racing away. Already they had bought Auckland’s Sensational Sausages to give national supply and that move was significant for its strong entry into supermarkets.
Like Topsy, the company continues its march onwards. Four years ago it bought Walsh’s Meats to supply the QSR market and 18 month’s ago was a real coup in the purchase of the Kiwi and Hutton’s brands off Goodman Fielder. And this year it has been folding the popular Santa Rosa poultry business into the mix. Todd is very proud of the all New Zealand product approach and to the strength the company is building in foodservice.
“We’ve now got all the meat proteins and are very excited about the new products the team is developing,” he said. It’s now a far cry from working for his father in a little South Brighton shop and even further from the tales of his grandfather who came out from Germany and was a providor in the gold rush days. The dozens of butchers’ shops the family developed last century have now gone by the wayside as Todd drove the company into becoming the country’s most prominent supplier that has diversified into a wide range of meat products – but proudly still a family business that is now opening up exports to Australia and the Pacific Rim.