Sharon and her partner started PC Direct, the very successful computer company which they sold in 1997 to Blue Star Products. She then ran a business importing continental foods and now is in partnership with her husband in Hire Pool.
The founder of PC Direct, Sharon Hunter now co-owns $20 million turnover, 50-person food company Continental Distributors, relaunched as euroPacific Foods.
NBR Rich List husband and wife team Sharon Hunter and Tenby Powell plan a string of acquisitions to support rapid growth of their joint investment vehicle's first business venture, food importer Continental Distributors. The couple formed Hunter Powell Investments (HPI) after Ms Hunter and PC Direct co-founder Maurice Bryham sold their highly successful computer company in 1997. They initially planned to use HPI as a base to launch a diversified business group before deciding to go with Continental alone after identifying strong growth opportunities in the specialist food sector. Continental was established about 15 years ago and has a $20 million-$25 million turnover with a 2500-product range and 50 staff at distribution centres in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.
"The industry is very fragmented and similar to the computer business when we started PC Direct," Ms Hunter said. "There were many companies involved but the major brands had only about 20% of the market, leaving an 80% opportunity for us. Food distribution is like that. There are low barriers for entry and high capital is not needed to start - it's not hard to bring in a product, put your name on it and go and try to sell it. Even the biggest players are not huge and with so many small companies the opportunities for growth are significant - this is a huge market and we are passionate about it."
"We want euroPacific Foods to be a one-stop shop with the majority of things people need, but with the technology to provide and manage that for the customer in a way New Zealand has not seen before."
The company's business is shared by retailers and the food service industry, including hotels, restaurants and food processors which import raw materials through euroPacific Foods which imports its own brands. Most food is sourced from Spain, Italy, Greece and Asia and its 2500 items include cockle meat, baby octopus, caviar, sauces, salamis, hams, olives, dozens of pasta lines, snails, truffles, wines and cheeses.
New Zealand cuisine has changed dramatically with more people travelling and reading about overseas food styles and cuisine has expanded with our more varied population, particularly Asian and Middle Eastern arrivals. Top chefs will not cook with second-rate product, so the business will grow as New Zealanders eat out more often.
“We looked at investing but that was not exciting," Ms Hunter said. - at the end of the day, it's got to turn you on or there's no point doing it. We were told investment was the sensible thing to do, but all you are really doing there is investing in someone else's guts and efforts. We would rather be the ones doing it - with all the challenges and the enormous fun. There is nothing quite so special as building an outstanding team and being part of what such a team can achieve - you can move mountains and being part of that is far more exciting than just investing and putting money into equities."