Top Waikato free range chicken producer scoops Hero Award

Waikato-based free range chicken specialist Waitoa is the latest New Zealand company to win the Buy NZ Made campaign's monthly Hero Award for February.

The 'Heroes' programme is a new initiative from the Buy NZ Made Campaign which identifies companies excelling in the promotion of their NZ Made status which have also excelled in several other key commercial areas.

Waitoa has a dedicated team of poultry farmers working throughout the Waikato region producing high quality free-range chicken. It has become one of the country's most successful free range providers blending care, innovation and best practice to produce some startling results.

Waitoa's Marketing Manager Allister Bathgate said Waitoa’s success was down to a combination of consumer awareness and demand for quality home produce.

"There's no question now that conscious consumption is driving growth," he explained.

"Consumers are looking for accredited suppliers with provenance in free range.

“Waitoa is SPCA blue tick approved and concentrates on high animal welfare standards. The blue tick is NZ’s only 100% independent accreditation scheme for animal welfare," said Allister.

Animal welfare is growing in importance to discerning New Zealand buyers - a trend being witnessed across many food categories.  

The recent joint Horticulture New Zealand and Consumer NZ survey found 71 percent of New Zealanders wanted country of origin labelling on fresh, tinned and frozen fruit and veggies and 70 percent wanted to buy home grown.

Waitoa Free Range Chicken

"It's more than that. Consumers want to know where everything comes from including their meat and of course they are interested in the unique characteristics of land, farm or farmer.

“Waitoa production is vertically integrated and we control everything from eggs, to the breeding of chickens and feed.

"Every step of the way we manage in a sustainable manner and we reinforce this in all our communication.

“Our chickens are grown in the green sunny valleys of the Waikato and we reinforce this message at all touch points. We feel it adds to the quality perception and reinforces provenance," Allister said.

Waitoa is the fourth NZ company to win one of the monthly Hero Awards. It will receive a certificate, promotion on the Buy NZ Made website, promotion in target media, Hero artwork which  can used in marketing and a social media advertising voucher worth $100 to be used on the Buy NZ Made social media channels.

The company will also be automatically entered into an annual competition where it and 11 other monthly winners will be voted on by the public for the Ultimate Hero Award. 

The ultimate award winner will receive a trophy and certificate, artwork displaying their ultimate hero status and an advertorial in a magazine of their choice.