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For Pitango, quality means not just delicious food but reliable carbon credentials too

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To be an award-winning export marketer, you need to do a few things right. Pitango Innovative Cuisine, an Auckland-based food company, sells its delicious soups, curries, risottos and pasta meals across New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. It won two export awards last year and its export-driven revenues are growing at 33 percent a year to reach just over $10 million.

So far, so good.

But while Pitango's soups really are organic, delicious and well priced, there's more to the story. Pitango has been working with the carboNZeroCertTM programme since 2006 to measure, manage (reduce) and offset the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with its organisation and products. As such, Pitango has achieved carboNZero certification for the organisation and products after being independently audited by Telarc SAI New Zealand.

The carboNZero certification is critical to its success, as Pitango is directly targeting an environmentally aware consumer who is buying products not just on taste and price but on the back story too.

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Origins

Pitango's story is as authentic as it comes. The company was founded in 2000 by Yasmin and Ofer Shenhav, who came to New Zealand from Israel in 1998 with just the packs on their backs and a burning ambition to succeed. Pitango—the name of a cherry-like, bittersweet Middle Eastern fruit—sells a wide range of fresh organic ready-to-eat risottos, curries, soups and pasta meals.

Ofer had worked as a chef in top restaurants in Israel and London, and is passionate about food. Yasmin's own background was far removed from the food industry. A fully qualified dance teacher and choreographer, she had worked in the industry long enough to realise the binding relationship between a healthy body and soul, and that "what we eat determines our vitality".

They saw a gap in the market for ready-to-eat meals that didn't involve hours at the stove, and that looked and tasted good. The couple tried all the supermarket soups and "knew we could do better by being different and organic. We bought a refrigerated truck, Ofer cooked soup all afternoon, it chilled through the night and he delivered it early to supermarkets before they opened."

Gradually the firm's distribution network and reputation widened. After soups came curries, risottos and pasta meals made with ingredients you would have at home—all organic and free-range—and ready to dish up in around five minutes.

Carbon hero

Pitango now has around 30 percent of the fresh soup market in New Zealand. The carboNZero certification mark on its products empowers consumers to make a positive environmental choice about the organisations and products they use.

In order for Pitango to gain full value from its certification, the significance of what it has achieved needs to be conveyed to its customers. When you buy a carboNZero certified product, it means that the product in your hand has zero net GHG emissions. That means the organisation has measured all the embodied emissions in the ingredients and packaging and the emissions involved in producing, transporting and distributing the product to retailers. Pitango also includes the emissions from refrigeration of its products at the retailer. Emissions related to consumption and disposal of the product are excluded as they are considered to be outside its operational control and influence.

What you get

Landcare Research's carboNZero certification offers a unique positioning for any business in any sector. It has allowed Pitango to reduce its operating costs and put more money back to its bottom line, understand and effectively manage its potential risk exposure, gain a competitive edge and market exposure and, in particular, helped combat the continuing food miles debate.

Pitango has realised that a carbon neutral claim can be a powerful marketing tool, particularly since it is exporting its products to key markets that face similar challenges.

The carboNZero programme is the world's first internationally accredited GHG certification scheme; this means it offers a certification mark that is accepted in 50 major world economies.

Pitango now has around 30 percent of the fresh soup market in New Zealand. The carboNZero certification mark on its products empowers consumers to make a positive environmental choice about the organisations and products they use

Pitango has been sending its products, labelled with the carboNZero certification mark, to Australia for the past three years, Hong Kong for two and a half years, and has started exporting into Thailand and Singapore. Other Asian markets are being lined up for expansion.

Communication is essential to the ongoing success of carboNZero certification. Kathryn Hailes, carboNZero programme marketing and communications manager, provides resources and support to in-house marketing and communications teams and external agencies to translate carbon management, reduction and offsetting activity into compelling propositions, PR materials and press releases for both internal and external audiences.

Pitango has actively promoted its carbon neutral status through posters, flyers, web, editorial, advertising and product packaging. Fridges and their trucks proudly carry the tag line "carbon neutral meals by Pitango—a world first".

Must have

Now with 35 staff and spiralling orders, Wade Gillooly, general manager of Pitango, is amazed at the whirlwind that's been created. In 2009 Pitango won Best Business Operating Internationally under $10 million in the New Zealand International Business Awards.

Gillooly says being carboNZero-certified is "a key selling attribute. It's not the number one factor, which remains quality. But it's an important part of the whole brand."

He says while carbon neutrality has yet to gain wide recognition here, it's widely accepted in the UK. "The UK market is well educated about sustainability; they are well tuned in and it's actually selling a point for us.

"For New Zealand, we see it as a leadership issue. It 'future-proofs' our business."

Reaching green consumers

As consumers increasingly become green-conscious, research is providing intelligence into how the market is segmenting:

  • LOHAS, the lifestyles of health and sustainability sector, has emerged as a significant market globally, worth in excess of US$550 billion annually. These consumers share common values and make choices about the companies they deal with based on their desire for a more meaningful, healthier and sustainable existence. They are socially and environmentally aware, and conscious that their purchasing decisions have implications. Some 30 percent of New Zealanders are defined as LOHAS and the market here is estimated to be worth $2 billion per annum.
  • Colmar Brunton's 'Better Business Better World' survey recently showed that 75 percent of Kiwis agree that it's important to be seen to be making sustainable choices—and that 55 percent want more facts so they can make intelligent choices about sustainability.

Reliable and transparent eco-labelling is a critical part of any green-marketing initiative. To talk to the carboNZero programme about carbon neutral certification, visit www.carbonzero.co.nz or for more information on eco-labelling visit: