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Bid to bring Hansells back home

Efforts are currently underway to buy back the brand, stock, sales and marketing, and plant of food and beverage manufacturer Hansells NZ, which was established in Masterton in 1934.

The business was originally sold in 2008 to a company based in Auckland, where everything was moved to except production, which continued from the original site at 160 State Highway 2 on the outskirts of Masterton.

Six years later, the intention of the then-owner to close the Masterton operation was prevented by local accountant Alan Stewart, who successfully pulled together a group of investors to buy and run it as a contract manufacturer – initially for just Hansells product lines, but more recently for several other companies.

It’s a strategy that’s kept the company’s lights on since then but several factors in recent years – including losing the production of key Hansells products to Auckland, and such covid-related difficulties as accessing ingredients and packaging, and cost increases – have conspired to make it a more tenuous proposition.

Now Stewart – who is currently the chairman of and a shareholder in Hansells Masterton – is determined to rescue the company again, and ensure its future by bringing it all back home.

The current owner of the Hansells brand – billionaire Graeme Hart’s Walter & Wild – is motivated to sell its assets, and has reached an agreement in principle with Stewart, who in turn has lined up the majority of the $6 million asking price with a bank and finance company, which are “keen to help”.

What he is currently seeking to seal the deal – which has a tentative closing date of April 1 – is up to $2 million to cover the ‘goodwill’ component of the agreement.

The main benefit of the proposed purchase, Stewart explained, is getting back the Hansells brand, which will open up potentially lucrative Asian export markets that favour products able to demonstrate long-term success in their home territory.

The ideal investors in Stewart’s eyes are Wairarapa locals who share his vision for the company and see the benefit of it continuing as a successful employer and contributor to the local community.

The purchase process is currently at “the white-knuckle stage”, Stewart admitted, but he’s nonetheless “I’m going ahead on the basis it’s going to happen”.

“I have confidence in the people, business and operation here, and would hate to see it shut its doors,” Stewart said.

“This is the step that will get the operation back to being a $20 million business, with a future for its 65 staff.”

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