THE ERIKSEN BROTHERS
The Eriksen brothers grew up on the family farm in Waerenga-O-Kuri, 50km west of Gisborne. The Eriksen family first arrived at this slice of paradise after their Grandfather, a soldier returned from fighting war, was allotted the land through a World War II ballot.
The farm passed to the next generation and the family continued farming sheep and beef. It wasn’t big, but a good living could be made.
The boys, Simon, William and Tim spent their days catching eels in the farm creeks and playing tennis and rugby. School was 35 kids in two classrooms with two teachers.
While other New Zealand children were doing maths, the boys were playing bullrush with their mates on the back field.
It was real rural living.
Boarding school in Auckland was a big step and massive change. It was an opportunity to think differently and larger. Life-long friends were made – networks that are part of the Neat Meat story today.
Simon studied agribusiness at university and worked overseas for a time, returning to New Zealand in 2001 ready for what was next: it would be the beginning of the Neat Meat story.
the NEAT MEAT story
In the beginning, the business supplied meat cuts to restaurants. Simon’s office was his 1986 Subaru Legacy.
A year in, brother William joined the business to help drive sales alongside Simon. Andy Ham, an Irishman that Will had collected in his travels while playing rugby in Belfast, also signed up.
With Andy now focused on the books, it gave Simon and Will a chance to get out on the road and get stuck into business development.
The bones of Neat Meat were taking shape.
It seemed important to stand out from the crowd. Not afraid of a challenge, Neat Meat bucked the status quo and offered imported Australian lamb and beef – only to be met with the ire of parochial chefs.
It was time for a new way of thinking.
In a market where lowest price wins there was potential for a different model, where a premium local product carefully nurtured by good farmers, would be rewarded and the flavour of beautifully produced meat could be appreciated on the plates of New Zealand diners.
Realising that making the quality of cuts immediately recognisable and, emulating the burgeoning NZ wine industry, a decision was made to start creating proper meat brands.
It started with AngusPure and it changed everything. It was a brand that told the story of what was local and best. It was the early 2000s, chefs were the new celebrities and dining out was now once a week rather than a twice a year special outing. Neat Meat was pivotal to a movement where food became central to a conversation about New Zealand culture, where quality and providence are premium.
THE MEAT IN THE SANDWICH.
A few years later, the youngest Eriksen brother, Tim, having returned home from his OE, joined the business and added his expertise to the sales team. This allowed Simon to get off the road and step back into the business, leaving Will and Tim to focus on developing relationships and growing sales.
It wasn’t long before Mark Hunter joined Neat Meat too. Mark lends a dry, matter-of-fact approach to the business ensuring the t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted. A chartered accountant, with a strong understanding of procurement and farming, Mark balances the skill set and keeps the brothers in line!
This is a team that believes in looking ahead, meeting the challenge of what’s next, taking care of your mates and always being best – whether it’s working closely with farmers who are prepared to over-commit when it comes to a farming practice to deliver the best product. This farming practice had to include looking after their animals and land ethically and sustainably. It also meant Neat Meat had to invest in world-leading machinery and packaging technology with the highest environmental credentials and above all stay innovative to keep delivering the best to the customer.
Today, the hero in the Neat Meat stable is the HARMONY brand. HARMONY continues the Neat Meat story with organic, free range beef, lamb, pork and chicken produced using the most sustainable methods from a select group of farms. You’ll find the HARMONY range in your My Food Bag delivery and on the shelf at your local, premium retail grocer.
HARMONY is the aspirational brand that Neat Meat hold as the epitome of where all their brands should eventually be perceived.
Neat Meat is the meat in the proverbial sandwich, nestled in New Zealand’s two largest industries, that being Agriculture and the Hospitality & Tourism industry and today as a team of some 80 people, they are very proud to deliver the highest offering to these key industries that drive the country that they love.
20 years on, the Subaru has been replaced by something that fits the kids and tows the boat and Neat Meat is more than just three brothers but it will always be a family business.
The bottomline for Neat Meat is to bring the best quality produce from the farm to the table. However, the attention to the logistics of how that is done is just as important as the quality of the end product.
It is a goal of Neat Meat that all products be delivered in the most convenient, efficient and sustainable way. It’s what the customer is demanding and it’s the right thing to do but it’s the only way to pay proper respect to the work already put in by the farmers.
Doing this involves a lot of people and a lot of infrastructure. To stay ahead of the curveball and keep Neat Meat current and able to service existing customers and grow - innovation is absolutely imperative to future-proof the business.
Neat Meat has had to design and custom make a number of machines that have been integral to ensuring efficiency while new products are designed and developed as the customer demands them. This includes making sure that the materials that your Neat Meat products are packaged in follow that code of ethics.
In 2017, Simon and the team instigated a project working with Exemplar and Plantic to try and produce a meat tray and packaging system that would still care for the product but also be completely recyclable.
How does the packaging work?
The products that carry this distinctive green and gold sticker are not only sustainably farmed HARMONY beef, lamb or pork but packaging the products are housed in are made from corn starch – the white liquid inside the corn kernel. Using the corn starch reduces the use of fossil fuel based resins that existing packaging uses.
This HARMONY packaging is able to be recycled in total. Unlike other traditional barrier materials where the various packaging cannot be separated to recycle, this packaging contains the plant based material as the barrier and the outside packaging is made using recycled plastic water bottles - manufacture uses about 2 x plastic water bottles per meat tray.
The process. How do you recycle this packaging?
Once you’ve unpacked your friendly-farmed cut from its packaging, simply rinse clean and pop the tray - with the covering film still attached - in to your recycling bin. This is collected by your council and sent off to be cleaned.
Once washed the plant-based material biodegrades. The polyester (from those plastic water bottles) is recovered and made into new trays. This means the process is a completely closed cycle. The packaging is recycled to be made back into the same packaging tray you’ve just recycled.
The tray your HARMONY meat comes in uses recycled polyester equivalent to 2 x 600ml water bottles and the starch from 1 cob of corn.
The team at Neat Meat knows there are still ways to improve but with sustainability and the future firmly in their sights, they are working towards a better place for you and for the place we all call home.