14 Apr 2017

Kiwi Bites

From Country Life, 9:14 pm on 14 April 2017

Keen to give her daughter a healthy snack rather than a bag of potato chips, Kerikeri kiwifruit grower Sandy Mecredy started producing dried kiwifruit slices in her kitchen. 

That turned into a small export business and the need for another processing facility.

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Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

Sandy Mecredy and her husband Richard used to live in Auckland. He had a demanding job with Air NZ, but when their daughter was born in the late 1980s, they decided they were sick of the rat race and needed to reinvent themselves.

That meant moving to Kerikeri in Northland and carving a kiwifruit block out of gorse and bracken, learning a lot, and fast.

Not one to shy from a challenge, or change, Sandy Mecredy has been busy learning again.

Over ten years ago she started drying gold kiwifruit and filling small snack sized bags with wafers of golden fruit. The equivalent of five fruit in a packet.

Production initially involved a handful of friends squeezing into her home-based commercial kitchen using a hobby-style dryer called a Harvest Maid. "I got up to 12 of them, the power bill went up accordingly. They hummed all night. We had lots of fun."

Before long she was expanding into two 40-foot containers for processing and drying, but there was still a lot of trial and error. 

There's a lot of water in a kiwifruit and over a 15-hour drying period, plenty can wrong.  

She says one memorable day some staff who were looking at air flow in the drier nearly burnt it down because they'd lit a small fire which exploded into life as the fans came on.

In the early days all the dried fruit was exported to Britain, but in 2008 production stopped.  

Sandy Mecredy's husband died and she lost the drive to keep going.

Roll forward to last August and she was ready to take on the challenge again. She's employing six staff and has interest from various offshore businesses. She's currently putting together an order for an international wine company in California.

According to Sandy Mecredy, her kiwifruit are a healthy snack – "all local, 100% pure, nothing added. Look out, world. Forget the potato chips, here come Kiwi Bites."