Saving Rhinos with Tofu

by Inga Yandell

Cultured foods are enjoying a resurgence both for their health benefits and their artisan qualities. Our interest in ancient food crafts, also reflects a hunger for culinary exploration, skill and innovation which transcends generations.

Reinterpreting old world staples with clever tools and techniques helps reinvigorate and preserve the wisdom of these traditions. Companies like Imake relish this revival, investing in DIY products for the adventurous cook. One of Imake’s suppliers Mad Millie produce a line of fermentation kits and specialised equipment, from Kimchi and yogurt to their latest release: a Tofu making kit. Now for the best part, how making tofu can help save rhinos.

Imake have found an inventive way to protect rhinos against poaching—creating a charity funded by a love of handcrafted foods. ‘Imake A Difference’ is the founder’s passion project—a fundraising foundation which supports anti-poaching efforts in South Africa. Their story reveals how a brand can support a culture and innovate conservation at the same time.

What’s Imake’s story?

Imake started out as a passion and hobby of our cofounder, Peter Eastwood. An avid homebrewer himself, he followed his dreams and opened a small homebrew retail shop 27 years ago. When seeing a gap in the market for a good quality wholesaler of homebrew products in New Zealand, he then expanded into this role. Shortly after this, he expanded wholesaling into Australia, and soon after that, the USA. The company has continued to expand and grow now employs 150 people around the world and distributes products in NZ, Australia, UK, South Africa, Europe, Canada, USA, South America, China. The range has also expanded to over 1000 products from both their own brands (Mangrove Jack’s, Still Sprits, Grainfather, and Mad Millie), as well as being a distributor for other top quality brands from around the world.

How do you incorporate ethics in your business?

We focus on five main values as a company at Imake and one of those is ethics. We have our own charity ‘Imake a Difference’, which supports the anti poaching of Rhino in South Africa (something our founder is also very passionate about). Staff members are able to get involved in this by helping to fundraise, and sometimes even get involved in the fundraising activities and events we also hold in South Africa. We also incorporate ethics into our day to day business through robust recycling, and on site composting efforts, and carefully select suppliers and business partners who share our interest in protecting the environment, as well as animal and people’s rights. Packaging and logistics is also a huge consideration for us. We take great care to minimise unnecessary packaging, and choose packaging that is recyclable. We also source and ship as close to the local markets as possible to minimise the carbon footprint of our international business.

How do you ensure staff are engaged in Imake causes?

We have competitions based on staff members’ active input in our charities which gives them the chance to join the trips to Africa to see the difference we are making with the projects we sponsor to save the Rhino. As Ethics is one of our core values, staff members are employed, reviewed and appraised on their ethical actions within the business no matter how big or small. This helps remind all of us of the bigger picture and keep us honest about what we are doing and the greater effects our actions may have outside the business walls.

Where is Imake located? 

Head office is located in Albany, Auckland, NZ. But we also have offices in Australia and the UK as well as warehouses in NZ, Australia, UK and USA.

What’s the personality of Imake? 

We’re a forward thinking company that is innovative, creative and dynamic. We also pride ourselves in being customer centric in our thinking, from product development to customer nurturing post sale. And we’re also fun!

What has helped you become a leader in artisan food kits? 

I believe our personality as mentioned above and our core values of innovation, being customer centric, ethical, looking after our Imake family and being proactive & determined. We also have a very strong New Product Development department which produce some amazingly innovative products for our consumers. This, coupled with great customer centric marketing and customer service, has lead us to having some of the strongest brands in the industry.

What is your philosophy when creating your products?

Keeping the customer at the forefront of our minds in the development process to ensure we’re developing a product they want and need, but also one they can use easily and with enjoyment. We do a lot of consumer testing with our products to ensure they meet all the consumer’s requirements before bringing them to market. You will often see us doing pilot and beta launches. This is all part of getting the consumer involved in the New Product Development process to allow us to create products that our customers truly love.

What do you believe makes your products so successful? 

I guess this has been covered in 7 & 8, but also our unique products that fulfill the desire of handcrafting food and beverages (and the pride that comes with that) at home as well as knowing what goes in your food. People are so interested in learning more about the process of what goes into their food and beverages these days, and we provide them with all the tools to get involved and become an artisan themselves.

You’re a Kiwi company but how far do your products reach?

We have a global presence. We sell in UK, Europe, USA, Canada, South America, South Africa, NZ, Australia and are now starting to move into China next.

Help save the rhino,

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Inga Yandell
Explorer and photo-journalist, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide educational resources and a platform for science exploration.
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