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Tauranga vanilla brand, Heilala Vanilla continues to invest in its Tonga supply chain achieving record planting numbers following the development of larger scale vanilla farms in 2018. 

Heilala Vanilla has maintained strong relationships with local Tongan vanilla growers built over the last 16 years and together with management and expertise of local vanilla grower Albert Guttenbiel, Heilala Vanilla has invested in the planting of over 100 acres of vanilla in Vava’u.

The farms which come onstream in 2023 will increase Heilala’s supply capabilities along with providing employment to more than 100 local community members.  Both the current and new vanilla plantations will provide a platform for research trials for the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) Vanilla Project.

Officially launched in Vava’u last week at the Heilala Vanilla Utungake farm, the partnership between MFAT and Plant and Food Research aims to develop strong vanilla farming practices to strengthen the industry. “With the support of MFAT and Plant and Food, the vanilla industry in Tonga will really benefit from applied research,” Jennifer Boggiss, Heilala Vanilla CEO says. 

The increased investment into the company’s Tongan supply chain follows the successful entry into the US market. “There is a strong baking culture in North America and focus on responsibly and ethically sourced ingredients,” says Boggiss. As a result, the company saw an increase of more than 2,000 percent in the U.S market from March 2017 to March 2019.

Heilala Vanilla CEO Jennifer Boggiss knows how important it is for the brand to remain fully connected and traceable to its Tongan origin while providing a thriving and sustainable future for the Tongan vanilla industry. Jennifer also speaks to the vanilla industry being a food product all Tongans can be proud of.

“When we’re visiting chefs or home bakers in New York City, we would like to see Tonga recognized in the same way Fiji is known for Fiji Water” she says.  Increasing higher quantity and quality vanilla supply and empowerment of grower communities ensures a positive and future for Tongan Vanilla growers. “The new plantings coming onstream along with the MFAT partnership will set us up for sustainable future allowing us to continue best practice and innovation within the global vanilla industry” says Boggiss. 

The support of vanilla growers in Tonga is key to the success of the Vanilla Project as acknowledged by New Zealand High Commissioner Tiffany Babington. “Ultimately, benefits from this project aim to have a direct impact on your livelihoods and, by extension, your families and the communities you live in,” Ms Babington said

Photo: NZ High Commissioner Tiffany Babington pollinated a vanilla flower with guidance of Albert Guttenbeil  

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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