Yarrows the Bakers case study

Yarrows the Bakers – Taranaki family business supplies Countdown’s 184 stores


For the small South Taranaki township of Manaia, the opening of Yarrows the Bakers in 1923 was the biggest thing since sliced bread.

It all started when Alfred Yarrow, a probation officer and Justice of the Peace, decided to open a hot bread shop to feed the tourists who would be visiting the township via the soon-to-be-built railway. While the arrival of the railway turned to custard after the decision was made to relocate it, the hot bread shop had already won over locals. Yarrows the Bakers was born.

More than 80 years later, Yarrows the Bakers is one of the largest remaining independently owned bakeries in New Zealand.

Humble beginnings

Knowing his dad was onto a good thing, Alfred’s son Noel Yarrow, and his son John Yarrow, acquired multiple bakeries in the Taranaki region and built a reputation for the family-owned business, satisfying locals with fresh doughnuts and tasty hot pies.

In 1982, Yarrows the Bakers started supplying fresh white sliced bread to Woolworths stores, before the supermarket chain was rebranded as Countdown, throughout the Taranaki region.

After a successful stint as a regional supplier, the introduction of frozen speciality bread dough saw the expansion of Yarrows the Bakers into Countdown stores nationwide. Philip Yarrow, a senior member of the team at Yarrows today and great-grandson of Alfred Yarrow, says Yarrows the Bakers has a long standing history of blending the latest technologies with traditional bread making methods.

“We are pioneers in the manufacture of frozen dough. It was a concept that came from the United States, and Yarrows the Bakers was the first to produce frozen dough in New Zealand, Australia and Asia.”

Yarrows the Bakers now operates three sites within New Zealand – Taranaki, Rotorua and Tirau – and employs a team of more than 165 people nationwide. Mr Yarrow says the business has seen incredible growth over the last three years, and the team is constantly looking for ways to improve to ensure Yarrows the Bakers remains at the leading edge of the bakery business.

“We travel the world to attend bakery conventions and source the latest technological innovations, including new baking and production techniques.”

“We’ve just commissioned our own flour mill at our Tirau site, and will look to start selling this product later in the year. We’re also working to bring our technology up to speed, and incorporate more natural ingredients into our products to accommodate the changing palates of consumers.”

Future gazing

Today, Yarrows the Bakers supplies a range of products to Countdown stores across the country, including pastries, cookies, artisan bread, Christmas tarts and doughnuts.

Mr Yarrow says the partnership with Countdown means Yarrows the Bakers has enjoyed nationwide exposure.

“We love that Countdown is a national supermarket chain. We’ve only got the one head office to deal with, and it’s easy to introduce our products to all stores.

“If we get something over the line in Auckland, it gets rolled out across the country.”

Since its inception in 1982, the relationship between Countdown and Yarrows the Bakers has remained strong. Mr Yarrow says weekly phone calls and monthly in-person meetings help keep the relationship on track, and ensure it is a win-win for both parties.

“The Countdown bakery team has three direct buyers, and it’s always a pleasure working with them on current products and ideas we have in the pipeline.

“Our relationship with Countdown has enabled us to grow the business. The volume you can achieve is phenomenal.”

As for whether Yarrows the Bakers croissants or doughnuts are Countdown’s biggest seller, “it’s very close,” says Mr Yarrow.