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Entrepreneurial ‘bootcamp’ for NZ natural products

Kiwi natural and organic products firms looking to expand domestically and internationally are gathering in Auckland this week to hear from global leaders in the sector at the third annual Hirshberg Entrepreneurship Institute (HEI), led by Stonyfield Farm founder Gary Hirshberg.

Stonyfield Farm is the world’s largest organic dairy company. Hirshberg is joined in Auckland by a high-calibre team of experts and business leaders who help him run the practical, case-based, problem-solving programme for New Zealand and Australian businesses. Auckland is the only location outside of the United States to host the HEI programme, which attracts huge demand in the US.

Participating companies work closely with industry leaders to solve business challenges. Hirshberg’s team includes former co-CEO of Whole Foods Market Walter Robb who now chairs the Whole Kids Foundation and Whole Cities Foundation, as well as founder and CEO of the Independent Natural Food Retailers Association (INFRA), Corine Shindelar.

Mr Hirshberg says he’s committed to running his programme in New Zealand because of enormous opportunity the country faces in the organic and natural products sector.

“We’ve got some natural advantages here, notably being GMO free – many producing regions can’t get that genie back in the bottle – as well as having a vital agricultural economy and a clean, green brand globally,” he says.

“As someone who has built a world class brand, I can recognize brands that have all the right ingredients for the 21st Century consumer. ‘Brand NZ’ is a powerful platform for US, European and Asian consumers seeking clean, natural, environmentally friendly products. But that reputation needs to continue to be earned and I hope our Institute can help kiwi entrepreneurs capitalize on their special advantages.”

For the first time this year, the programme includes team members representing investor interests, says Hirshberg.

“We’ve folk on the team interested in bringing direct investment to the NZ sector,” said Mr Hirshberg. “We are start to build powerful networks connecting the NZ sector into the US and other markets. The opportunity for New Zealand in what is the fastest-growing sector in the world is enormous. Consumers want quality, organic and natural products with strong provenance.

The 2019 HEI programme runs in Orakei, Auckland, on Tuesday and Wednesday this week (Nov 19 – 20, 2019). Minister of Agriculture, Biosecurity and Food Safety, Damien O’Connor, will join the programme for a session.

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