The Boggiss and Ross family started Heilala Vanilla in 2002 and still own and operate the business today.

Before 2002, John was a retired dairy farmer, Jennifer was an accountant and Garth worked in IT. They worked a dormant piece of land in Utungake, Tonga gifted to them by the local village. Little did they know at the time that the piece of land was destined to lead to something much bigger.

John and Garth put to practice their horticultural know how to kick start the plantation by researching countries around the world that grew vanilla in the narrow band 20 degrees on each side of the equator. The plan was to help to provide the locals with employment and hope that the demand for vanilla blossomed.

It then took three years to develop and nurture the vines through the on-going art of careful training, weeding and looping, all while ensuring organic sustainable farming was being practiced.

John who was once a frequent holiday maker to Tonga is now virtually a local spending up to six months a year at the Tongan plantation.

In 2005 the first 40kg harvest of vanilla beans were ready. Time passed, the plantation went from strength to strength harvesting a healthy two tonnes in 2010.

An annual crop is brought back from Tonga to the company’s base in Tauranga, New Zealand. Heilala Vanilla is then packaged for each order; the Pure Extract and Vanilla Paste, Syrup and vanilla bean sugar are manufactured, and dispatched to chefs, gourmet food manufacturers and a selection of specialty retail outlets, including Moore Wilson’s.

The practice of true sustainability with the local villages and growers is very important to Heilala and has enabled resources for education and infrastructure, which the communities otherwise may not have had.

Heilala Vanilla is grown using organic principles in organic virgin soil, on coconut husk frames, hand pollinated and dried under the Pacific Sun, then stored at optimum conditions to ensure full flavour develops. This is what gives 100% Pure Heilala Vanilla (of the Bourban variety) its distinctive aroma, shine and plumpness!

Find me in... Moore Wilson's Fresh Tory St, Porirua and Masterton.