Barker’s of Geraldine is the remarkable story of a pioneering New Zealand family, who turned a tiny corner of their farm into a cottage industry that grew like topsy to become a major food producer.
Celebrating 50 years in business this year, Barker’s was founded by Anthony Barker and his wife Gillian in 1969. Together, from humble beginnings, they put people before profits and created a strong, viable, values-based company. The first product they launched under the Barker’s brand was their elderberry wine, which was a huge hit and from here they diversified into full-scale fruit wine production.
Anthony Barker was a born tinkerer and a tireless innovator, who, in typical Kiwi ‘number eight wire’ fashion, converted the most unlikely home appliances into winemaking paraphernalia! One of his greatest achievements, outside the Barker’s business, was to invent what became the Kent (Barker) Log Fire, the royalties from which helped to keep the company afloat during challenging times.
One of the hardest decisions Barker’s made was to stop making fruit wines in favour of creating a fruit ingredients and bakery fillings business. After a steep learning curve and some lean years, they successfully launched their first major brand – Barker’s Blackcurrant – and shifted from being a modest cottage industry into a prominent New Zealand food producer and export business.
Barker Fruit Processors have always aspired to excellence and at five-yearly intervals have benchmarked their business against the best. They won the Supreme Award at the South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards in 2009 and 2014 and in September 2019 were winners of the Producer / Manufacturer Award at the Westpac Canterbury Chamber of Commerce Business Champions Awards. And they are the only business to have ever been a Category Winner three years in a row at the NZ Food Awards.
Barker's process a lot of New Zealand produce for NZ provenance label claims and export over 20% of their production, mostly to Australia. Barker's are leaders in many grocery and foodservice categories and also supply processed fruit products in bulk to large Bakery and Dairy manufacturers. Their focus on innovation has yielded steady compounding growth averaging 11% per annum over the past 25 years. They employ over 220 staff, making them the largest employer in Geraldine and a significant employer in the South Canterbury region.
The Barker’s family credit much of their success to their business ethos of innovation, determination, risk-taking and investing in people. They credit the people of Geraldine and those around them, who shared their dream and helped to make it a reality. Today, this success is measured in the community spirit and culture that’s behind every Barker’s product, and in the strong brands they have built.
Barker’s of Geraldine: 50 Years Preserved is Michael Barker’s proud tribute to his father Anthony and the story of a heartland New Zealand business, guided by its people, who share their memories in the book. Together, their story is one of entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, fun and dedication to community.
"It is my hope that this will be a story that inspires others and resonates as a story of risk-taking and success, a uniquely Kiwi story that celebrates people first and foremost . . . For hundreds of people in Geraldine and further afield, it’s been our life’s work and we couldn’t be prouder," said Michael Barker.