Neat Meat is a flourishing family business run by the Eriksen brothers and their "adopted" Irish brother Andy Ham. It all started in 2001 when Simon Eriksen, an ambitious farmer's son from Gisborne, returned from his OE ready for a new challenge. Using his business and entrepreneurial skills - which included setting up wild boar farms on London's green belt - he saw the potential in providing quality meat to Auckland's top restaurants and hotels.
The early days of Neat Meat were certainly humble. The first company "office" was Simon's beat-up 1986 Subaru Legacy which doubled as his delivery van and his main form of contact was an ancient brick-sized cell phone. But he quickly built up a list of happy clients.
Neat Meat became a family business when Simon's younger brother William returned to New Zealand from his OE - mostly in Northern Ireland where, among other things, he played "professional" rugby: "I was provided with a car to drive and a place to stay," William recalls, "so as far as I am concerned, it was professional!"
Simon, who knows it's best never to argue with your mother, did as instructed and took on William on as a personal assistant and truck driver. Although Simon was tempted to ask his mum if she'd mind if he fired William because of his questionable driving and administration skills, it turned out William had an affinity for sales. He managed to keep his job after lassooing some key clients in the nick of time.
The Eriksen brothers chose the perfect business to suit their skills and background. Dealing in meat came naturally. They'd grown up on Waikoko Station, a sheep and cattle farm near Gisborne, at the foot of the Urewera ranges. They had New Zealand farming blood running through their veins - and as soon as they could walk they were feeding lambs, shooing cows and fattening up their prize kune kune pig Colin with tasty scraps.
When travelling Irishman Andy Ham joined the Neat Meat team the company had a proper office and its own truck with a chilled unit (White Thunder 1). Andy took over the books and harnessed in the Eriksens' tendency to stock the chillers floor to ceiling, with no room to move.
The trio had learnt a thing or two about the meat trade in their first few years with the doors open and after dealing with foreign meats with superior branding to our local product they realised that when visiting clients and competing with other suppliers with the same products at the same price, they had to think outside the square to push Neat Meat ahead of the pack. They noticed that the New Zealand lamb and beef market had a high standard of export quality meat cuts, but that there didn't seem to be enough focus on associating that quality with a brand that New Zealanders could consider their own and find readily available.
After meeting with a staunch group of New Zealand famers who believed our local beef to be the best in the world, Neat Meat alongside the NZ Angus Association developed Angus Pure, a brand of the highest quality beef available and was not only superior to it's competitors in taste but wholly grass fed, ph tested and aged for a number of weeks to ensure that customers knew that when they paid for Angus Pure, they were getting the very best in the country, if not the world.
With the same quality control they applied to the Angus Pure beef cuts they were providing, Neat Meat developed First Class lamb and also begun providing Harmony Pork -the only SPCA accredited free range pork producer in the country -, Grain Fed and Wagyu Beef and First Light Venison. They were now providing a huge range of different quality cuts to some of the countries very best restaurants and hotels, as well as pushing their top class brands into butcheries and supermarkets across New Zealand.
The company has now expanded from an operation running from the boot of a car into a fully functioning Meat Lair. The youngest Eriksen brother Tim had arrived home from Ireland in early 2008 to join the team as some form of 'new systems development visionary' and his new job meant he could get paid to spend time on the internet. By now all systems were well and truly firing: White Thunder 1 was accompanied on the road by Hell On Wheels and Neat Meat HQ at 47 The Strand Parnell was up and running as not only a logistical point but a processing station to provide restaurants with any kind of weird and wonderful style or portion size of meat they required. Their very meagre retail store has also expanded and is now selling export quality cuts of beef, lamb, pork, venison, veal and small goods as well as a full deli range including sauces, rubs, dips, italian olive oils, pastas and frozen goods. Even hot pork and beef rolls, gourmet pies and Fair Trade Atomic Coffee are now on the menu.
Looking towards the future, Neat Meat's launch of an online shop for retail customers means that their loyal followers (and new ones) can access some of the finest culinary products in the world and have them delivered direct to their doorstep in time for dinner.