There’s nothing much we admire more than clever and creative locals seeing a niche or having a unique little dream and getting stuck into making it work and making it their own, and lately our eyes have been caught and our tums made happy by some incredible boutique food businesses offering up delicious, nourishing, ethical, considered and generally just good food and drink products – so we thought it was time we gave some of them a bit of a well-deserved spotlight.
Next up is James Crow, who along with co-founder Tommy Holden, created a booming little business in icecream, iceblocks and most recently, coconut milks (their chocolate milk is next level amazing)…
How was Tommy & James born?
It’s been a succession of opportunities and lucky breaks, the first being when Tommy (my mate in this whole endeavour) turned up to our little rented kitchen one night with a can of coconut cream and we tried making a Nice Block out of it. It was of course a hit.
What kind of a challenge has it been introducing something new to the New Zealand market?
I think the challenge has been well balanced with the size of the opportunities as we’ve grown. For the most part we just have to turn up five days a week like everyone else with a job and do the work. If the products are good then the work pays off and people just rally behind you. We’ve been feeling that love since 2010.
Where is your product made, by who, and what from?
We started in a little Point Chevalier café then jumped straight into a large factory space in Penrose where we are today. Everything we make – the Nice Blocks, nice cream and our recently launched dairy-alternative coconut milks have been made there. Our team is tight and contains a lot of family and friends that have fallen into our world as the business has grown these last five years. All of our products focus on local, organic and Fairtrade ingredients and all are dairy and animal product free and contain nothing but what we truly believe needs to be in there.
What’s something people might not know about your brand or your product?
A lot of people still don’t know who we are or that we support everything that can be good about business. Not only do we support the ingredient quality standard I mentioned above, but we’re also a founding member of the Living Wage movement Aotearoa. We see huge potential for developing alternative food products from New Zealand and our Pacific neighbours. The first example of this being our Samoan coconut growers who early next year will switch on a gleaming new processing plant that was created from market demand for our nice cream and coconut milks.
What was the first product you made?
The first product Tommy and I made was a set of canapé Nice Blocks for a friend’s art gallery opening. Tangelo, Chocolate Coconut and Raspberry. They were a hit and we had a business.
Do you have a favourite product?
I love all my children equally. But probably our Little Island Original Coconut Milk, as I use it every day from breakfast in my muesli and smoothie to the cup of tea I have perched beside me right now.
What are your current favourite ways to eat/drink your products?
Beyond that smooth sales pitch above, it would have to be the recent collaboration we did with Rochfort Rees for our new Rosé Nice Block. It’s perfect.
What’s next for Tommy & James?
We’ve got a lot more to do. There are more Pacific Islands to switch on to our need for Fairtrade organic coconuts that they are capable of being part of. We have markets in other countries to tackle. And of course we have a great summer ahead of us where we get to do our favourite things – party with friends and customers at every good music event that will have us. Tommy and James love summer!
Photos of James and Tommy by Jessie Casson