One doubts Annie Millar would have considered the cafe and bakery she set up in Invercargill in the 1900s would evolve into the Southern Hemisphere`s leading pastry manufacturer.

But a commitment to never standing still has served Quality Foods Southland well during its 110-year history, which it celebrated this month.

From its Invercargill base, QFS now exports to at least eight different countries and earns around $25 million annual export revenue, making it one of the top 350 New Zealand exporters. Mrs Millar’s early cafe quickly developed into a family business and had its first major shift when the Millar family merged with the competing Lange family bakery to form Millar Lange.

In 1981, after Southland businessman Joe Bagrie joined the company, it made its first international shipment of frozen pastry to Japan. It was later purchased by Goodman Fielder and became part of Quality Bakers NZ before being purchased by a private, mostly Australian-owned, company and became QFS in 2002.

Since then it has continued to evolve and adapt to meet the requirements of its expanding customer base, says current chief executive Andee Gainsford. More than 50 per cent of what the company does now is manufacture pastry – not the type most of us might use in our kitchens but a rich, high quality pastry with a high content of pure butter that is mostly used in the Japanese confectionery market.

“It’s a fairly high-end value product. If you went to the VIP meeting at the New Zealand stand of the current World Expo, they’re serving our pastries there.”

The company also produces white sauce, frozen cookies, biscuit mix and croissants for their customers,which are also found in Hong Kong, Macau, Australia, Canada, Dubai and Antarctica. Its massive reliance on the dairy industry makes it Fonterra’s largest industrial user of specialised butter, requiring more than 1000 tonnes a year.

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