Makikihi Fries was started in 1983, by founder Jac Bleeker (who had emigrated from Holland in 1952).
Bleeker started in potatoes by growing for other manufacturers. In 1983 he and his family decided to start making their own great-tasting french fries. Thus, Makikihi Fries was born - now over 35 years in production and continuing to grow from strength to strength.
Makikihi Fries sees itself as one of the little guys, “because we are. If you were to use a beer analogy, we would align ourselves with craft beer, rather than one of the big guys. Our motto is not to be the biggest ... just the best,” explained current Operations Manager, Stewart Hydes.
“Up until recently, our sales were predominantly in what we see as our home patch – the eastern and southern coast of the South Island.”
The national shortage of fries arising from the outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown has caused a shift.
“We were able to help out with the fries shortage around the country - which has led to us having to think a little differently. What we found, is that people all around the country just love our great-tasting Fries. So, we’re working hard to build on that – and bringing our Fries to those new fans.”
“We’ve never tried to be all things to all people,” noted Hydes - just like craft beer, Makikihi Fries might not be for everybody.
Makikihi's supermarket range includes 5kg in Crinkle Cut (for those with a big freezer who want to make sure they always have Makikihi Fries on hand), 2kg in Crinkle Cut, Straight Cut and Steak Fries, and 1kg currently in Crinkle Cut only but is set to expand.
Other products such as Skin-On, 10mm Slims, and 7mm Shoestrings, are available only for hospitality and foodservice customers at the moment. However, Hydes would like to see some of this ranged into supermarkets as well.
“Without a doubt it is our unique, great taste that brings customers back time and again. On top of that, some of our customers like to support us because Makikihi Fries are certified carbon zero, or they like the fact our fries are gluten free and completely natural with no preservatives, additives or artificial flavour enhancers.”
Makikihi Fries use 100 percent Agria potatoes, which were first brought to New Zealand for Jac Bleeker. To this day, the potatoes are 100 percent locally grown, which fits well with the current push to think local and buy local.
“For over 35 years, we’ve rigidly adhered to a simple, local recipe, untouched by globalisation. Everything about Makikihi Fries is created, consumed, and kept in New Zealand. When you eat our fries, you become a part of the whole Makikihi Fries story.”
The team is relatively small at the factory, but the Makikihi Fries family extends beyond direct employees. It includes salespeople and merchandisers, distribution truck drivers who get the products around the countryside, everybody who sells its products in restaurants, cafes and takeaway shops – and of course, all the customers who buy Makikihi Fries.
Business fell off dramatically when the country went into lockdown, as most of Makikihi Fries’ customers (restaurants, foodservice) were forced to close.
“Luckily, we were able to help get our fries to more people through Supermarkets. Now that our other customers can re-open, we are welcoming them back, it’s great to see everybody again.”
Makikihi Fries have worked hard to restore the volume it lost since the outbreak of COVID-19. Once the brand gets some breathing space it has some new ideas it will be working on.
“Makikihi Fries’ customers are discerning; they appreciate great taste and good value for money. We are really pleased to be able to bring our great-tasting fries to more people around the country.”
For more information about its product range visit makikihifries.co.nz