Tasman Bay Food Group

Who we are 

We are a family-owned company based in Nelson Tasman that make a range of products including Zesti.

How we started 

Its hard to believe now, but back in the 1970s, my father Brian Hirst was a chemical sales representative; this occupation is listed on my birth certificate. Its perhaps not the start you’d expect for someone who opened an organic bakery.

Brian and I sometimes talk about how much the industry has changed and how many of the horticultural chemicals he once sold have now been banned for their negative side effects.

The Nelson Tasman region where I was born and raised has a long history of horticulture. Right up until the early 2000s, testing of soil on rural properties revealed residues of arsenic, copper, lead, zinc and DDT. Growing up near Mapua, the hub of the region’s apple industry, I was aware of the former Fruit Growers Chemical Company site that at the time, was the most contaminated site in New Zealand. This abandoned site took many years and millions of dollars to clean up between 1988 and 2007. 

I’m glad there is now greater awareness of the harmful effects of these chemicals and that they are no longer commonly used. But I wonder what future generations will make of our practices today. Will they look back in dismay at what we are doing now? What don’t we know yet? 

For me, organics is about the health of the people, the land and the sea. I believe we have a duty of care to the world for future generations. To help achieve this, we need to make good choices about the food we buy. I’m also realist, so I choose organic when the quality is great and the price is right. I am prepared to pay more for food that I know is free of chemicals, has been grown on a farm where enhancing the biodiversity is important and animals are grown cruelty-free. I want to provide the most nutritious food I can for my kids. A couple of my fave’s are Bostock’s Chicken and Hakubaku Soba Noodles. 

I apply the same thinking to our food manufacturing business, Tasman Bay Food Group, where the focus is on producing food that is better, healthier and real. 

Better – Every product is of high quality, offers value for money and is something we are proud of. This means that sometimes we can’t make a quality product at a price that will work. For example, we really wanted to launch a delicious Zesti Organic Shortbread this year, but to reach the quality we wanted using organic butter, flour and sugar, the price would have been too high. We need to wait until organic butter is at a more realistic price level, hopefully that happens sometime soon.

Healthier – Zesti products are based around simple, classic recipes like your Grandma used to make, using healthier ingredients where ever we can. For example our Zesti Organic cookies include buckwheat, organic oats and whole grains. The cookies are still a treat, but they’re not just empty calories.

Real – We choose to certify our organic products with BioGro. The BioGro logo helps consumers identify organic products they can trust. BioGro-certified products have been audited against rigorous standards to ensure they are the real deal. More info on BioGro organic standards.

My father Brian now sees his time working as a chemical sales rep as a good education. He now grows his own vegetables chemical-free and organics play an important part in his food choices, he only eats broccoli and celery that hasn’t been grown with the use of chemicals now as the amount of chemical on these was shocking. Also, he really could tell the taste difference between organic and non-organic fruit and vegetables. It wasn’t only his time as a chemical sales rep that spurred the change in himself and his company into being strong advocates for organic food. From the late 70’s to mid 80’s Brian used to make grape juice and sell mainly to health food shops around New Zealand so he took an interest in the organic products they were selling. Later at Tasman Bay Food Group we were being supplied stone ground flour to our bakery from a grower who grew organically. His story fascinated Brian in that he found he could grow better crops that were more disease resistant by using a sustainable system. So, Brian decided to make a range of bars utilising this growers’ organic flour – this is the range Zesti Organic Fruit Bars we have now. 

To help other businesses get their organic products to market we became Biogro certified as a contract manufacturer, now many of the organic products on supermarket shelves throughout New Zealand and Australia are baked in our Tasman Bay Food Group bakery on behalf of our customers who have the same principles as us.

Today, my father Brian and I both value good, tasty, healthy food choices. Quite a turnaround for a former chemical company sales representative!

Our commitment to organics 

Here at Zesti, we make tasty little treats – and we make them right. We use local and organic ingredients whenever we can, and delicious, wholesome recipes.

We recently launched a range of Organic Crunchy Sunflower Snacks, as we continue to bring consumers exciting wholesome and organic snacks. 

Available in three variants – Chilli and Lime, Garlic, Olive Oil & Cracked Pepper, and Rosemary – the range provides a vegan friendly alternative to chips and nut mixes. 

Introducing a product that solves the problem for consumers in finding a healthy snacking options, that are convenient, low sugar, protein snack. The line also looks to tap into consumer demand for certified organic, plant based, vegan and no GMO ingredients in their snacks. 

The sunflower snacks are made from a range of seeds, oil, salt and natural flavours and are a great source of protein and dietary fibre. 

According to FMCG, three consumers megatrends are health, convenience & taste. “The snackification trend means that consumers are shifting away from three square meals a day. Consumers are seeking portion-controlled grab & go products to meet their needs”. 

The ‘Total Snackfoods’ category is worth $447m and is growing at 7.6%. Consumers are looking for innovation with ‘Other Snacks’ growing at a massive 63.1%. (Neilson Data MAT 09/09/18) 

Marina Hirst-Tristram, managing director and creator of Zesti Organic Crunchy Sunflower Snacks, said: “Our philosophy is around Better. Healthier. Real. We wanted to make something better for you, out of healthier and real ingredients. We wanted to use organic ingredients because we believe it’s what’s NOT in them that counts. Plus, we value that our suppliers are fair, our growers care for the land and our ingredients deliver in taste & wholesomeness.” 

Inspired by our location in sunny Nelson Tasman, New Zealand, our name reflects our zesty flavours and the energy we put into baking our goodies. They're little, local and oh-so-good.