Say Cheese - Say TararuaSunday, Mar 16, 2003
On a personal note I would like to record the passing of Tararua branded dairy products from the New Zealand Dairy market. Although not yet completely absent from the dairy cabinet it can be guessed that its demise is underway as Fonterra rationalises its complex of brands on the NZ market.
Tararua as a brand cut an unlikely path into the local cheese market in the 1950’s. Tararua Cooperative Dairy Company Ltd was formed in 1914 and expired in 1980. Similar to many small cheese producing dairy coops of the time Tararua grew to about 20 suppliers milking about 3,000 cows all located within a couple of miles of the factory.
Cheddar and Colby cheese were its only products and as many of its contemporaries merged into larger manufacturing co-ops to produce butter and casein or skim milk powder Tararua persisted with the products which had given it success and moderate payouts
The co-op had the good fortune in 1951 to appoint a very capable and perceptive cheese maker, William Rankin, whose persistence and expertise established the Tararua brand on the local market by pioneering the company’s rindless cheese manufacture and its subsequent small block cutting and pre-packaging in clear film for direct sale to local grocers.
It was from the small farmer coop that the brand grew to at a commanding 47% share of the local cheese market by the late 1980’s. Tararua brand survived many ups and downs as it developed its distribution channels but its biggest success came from its close association with the Foodstuffs group and particularly Foodstuffs Wellington.
This particular association was based on what was for then a rather unique concept of producer and retailer cooperation rather than competition in growing the market by investing strongly in the brand to develop both brand and product value.
The brand was carried on past the failure of Tararua Co-op Dairy Co in 1980 and through a number of mergers ended up in the clutch of brands passed to Fonterra in the recent merger.
Tararua brand was always an unlikely survivor in the marketplace and could have much sooner gone the way of many of the other small cheese co-op brands such as Okato, Waimana, Kai Iwi, Ruahine, Dalefield and the many others so jealously husbanded by farmer producers who identified themselves by the success of the co-op they supplied.
Amusingly one of the biggest crises the Tararua brand faced was a challenge from an earnest mature pakeha student of Maori language who discovered that while Tararua meant twin peaks to local Maori it had a completely different and less desirable meaning in the Maori language generally. Not even the smart talking of the ablest PR company could have overcome that naming drawback had it become generally known.