Meadow Mushrooms, New Zealand’s leading mushroom supplier, has been awarded the EY 2018 Family Business of Excellence Award, recognising leaders of outstanding entrepreneurial families who have demonstrated a successful balance between business and family issues, growing the business and taking responsibility for others by their philanthropic or social engagement.
A classic story of Kiwi entrepreneurship, Meadow Mushrooms was started on the island of Cyprus in the 1960s by former Cabinet Minister Philip Burdon and friend Roger Giles. When intercommunal violence erupted on the island, Burdon and Giles moved the operation back to New Zealand, founding the business in Canterbury in 1970.
At the time, mushrooms weren’t a huge part of the national cuisine, yet the persistent pair introduced much of the nation to the versatile vegetable by way of fresh, frozen and canned options, taking mushrooms from an occasional mealtime accompaniment, to the nation’s fourth most popular vegetable by sales.
Meadow Mushrooms is now wholly owned by the Burdon family, who bought out the Giles family some years back. Burdon family members hold various board positions, with Miranda Burdon, daughter of Philip Burdon as the Chair, alongside independent directors. An executive team manages the day to day management of the business.
Miranda Burdon says it was an honour to win the EY 2018 Family Business of Excellence Award, because the Meadows Mushroom business has always been about family.
“The mushroom farm is part of our extended family, and always will be. Growing up, all of us worked in the business at different times and now the next generation is wanting to do the same.”
Burdon says, “Beyond our immediate family, Meadows Mushrooms is proud to have developed a large extended family, including 600 employees across our five sites and thousands of passionate mushroom lovers around New Zealand.”
Innovation and sustainability are central to decision making at Meadow Mushrooms. From its humble roots, the business is now a high-tech operation with full vertical integration, while demonstrating leadership on environmental, social and economic matters.
A spawn laboratory was established early on to enable quality and supply, seeing production increase from 2 tonnes to 200 tonnes per week. In recent years Meadow Mushrooms has spent around $100 million upgrading from the older style tray farms to new shelf-based production, streamlining operations and creating a more efficient and safer workplace for everyone while improving the company’s environmental footprint.
Meadows Mushrooms uses 1,200 tonnes of compost each week, produced in a purpose-built facility close to the farm using locally sourced straw and chicken manure. The spent compost is packed with nutrients and is reused in the community in local gardens and nearby farms, in some cases returning to the farms the straw originally came from.
Meadow Mushrooms manages all its own distribution and marketing and has led the way with its innovative, biodegradable consumer punnets. In its move away from using plastic punnets, Meadows Mushrooms has been able to eliminate the equivalent of 2.5 million plastic drink bottles in just one year, which has been well-received by loyal mushroom purchasers.
Meadow Mushrooms can be found throughout New Zealand in supermarkets, restaurants and independent fruit and vegetable stores.