Talking to Heartland Chips General Manager Charlotte Bowan, there is no disguising the fact that this is a company with family values and passion at its core. It was her parents, Raymond and Adrienne Bowan, who started the chip company 10 years ago. ‘Dad grew up around potatoes and used to earn pocket money digging them up on the neighbouring property,’ she says.
Years later when the local chip factory closed its doors, Raymond jumped at the opportunity to fulfil not only a gap in the market but a lifelong dream to produce his own potato chips, from his own homegrown potatoes. The result was Heartland Chips. That was 2010, and now, 10 years on, the company has evolved and grown beyond expectations, to become a household name and pantry staple.
The connection to the land and the family farm, Fallgate in South Canterbury, is still prevalent today with Raymond’s son (Charlotte’s brother) James overseeing the property. It is here that the potatoes for the famous chips are grown and nurtured before being carefully harvested and transported 30 kilometres down the road to the factory where they are sliced, cooked, packaged and distributed around New Zealand, with a small range being sent offshore to Australia and Singapore.
‘Our growth over the last decade has been as a direct result of the local support we get,’ explains Charlotte, ‘and we have been so grateful for this, so our priority is always to be supplying New Zealand customers first.’
And the local support has been immense. Ten years ago, the company produced five chip flavours in a wave cut only. Now they have over 31 different products, across several different varieties: wave cut, flat cut, thickest of the thick and kettle cooked.
While Southern Salt reigns supreme as Kiwis’ favourite, Heartland Chips have never shied away from pushing the boundaries and giving fans what they want. ‘Flavours like Maple Bacon and Tokyo Tang (Wasabi Mayonnaise) seem really out there,’ laughs Charlotte, ‘but they have been really successful.
‘Often our flavours come about from suggestions from chip lovers, while others are inspired by round table discussions,’ she explains. With a flavour house providing information regarding trends from around the world, the family and their production team will then sit down and chat it through. ‘Sometimes the ideas work, and sometimes they don’t,’ continues Charlotte, ‘but what is important is that we are keeping up with the times, and what our customers want.’
One such want saw the recent addition of a Nude range. ‘While chips will always be a bit naughty, they are chippies after all,’ says Charlotte with a grin. ‘We have been able to look at the way we are cooking some of our chips to provide customers with a more health-conscious option.’ The Nude range boasts no salt and the Nearly Nude 50 per cent less added salt.
As well as innovation across production and flavour, Heartland Chips have become renowned for their support of local charities. ‘In 2018 and 2019 we added a limited-edition pink to our packaging in support of the Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Awareness fundraising,’ shares Charlotte, ‘and in 2020 we supported Blue September in the same way. Every two years we will look to change the charity we support. It is as much about donating to these great causes as it is about helping them to raise awareness.’
Despite the rapid growth and international sales, the Bowan family has stayed true to what Raymond and Adrienne set out to do 10 years ago. To produce a mouth-watering (and let’s be honest, addictive) potato chip from their homegrown spuds. An achievement worthy of success.
And what is next for New Zealand’s only owned and operated chip company? Well I suggest you watch this space, as the next 10 years are set to be even better for this family of potato lovers.
Words Lucinda Diack