Banana paper maker sees way forward in New Zealand

DEREK Dolence is greatly impressed with the high awareness about eco-friendliness and fair and sustainable trade practices among Kiwis.

Mr Dolence was representing his company Green Banana Paper, exhibiting its range of products at Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) NZ’s Pasifika Business Market during Auckland’s Pasifika Festival in March. He is the company’s B2B Sales Manager.

On show were wallets, purses, small bags and a range of stationery items fashioned out of paper and card made from banana fibre, which were a great hit with visitors to the company’s booth at the event at Western Springs.

“We were pleased to find that New Zealand’s market prioritises fair trade and investment that caters to new-to-market businesses from all around the Pacific. This has made the path to the New Zealand market much easier to forge,” Mr Dolence told Pacific Periscope.

He was appreciative of the value New Zealanders place on eco-friendly and sustainable products and processes.

“Consumer consciousness on sustainability and social impact is high in New Zealand and products made from natural materials in a sustainable way such as our wallets and purses are clearly preferred over the same type of products made from leather,” he said.

The business being a social enterprise was also appreciated by Kiwis and visiting a country with this high awareness was a good test of the appeal of the product in such a market, he added.

“We were very pleased to find most consumers at Pasifika to be globally and socially-conscious making our products, that incorporates eco-friendly and cruelty-free practices, heavily resonate with Kiwis.”

He said the New Zealand experience was thought-provoking and provided insight on how to make a more profound mark on the market.

“We plan to foster our relationships within New Zealand and spread our distribution throughout the region,” he said.

Speaking of his experience meeting Kiwi customers face-to-face he said, “It was great to see repeat customers come back for more of Green Banana Paper products.”

He said one of highlights of the event was, “To see customers buy a new Green Banana wallet and move the contents of their old wallet into the new one right in front of my eyes.”

As well as seeing product sell briskly, Mr Dolence said the trip to New Zealand was educative in terms of collecting valuable customer feedback.

“It also was so important to hear the consumer feedback and their enthusiasm, so we can take that information back to the drawing board and implement it to ensure growth and longevity.”

The feedback will likely spark new ideas: “We had a lot to think about regarding product development after Pasifika and speaking with consumers. People view us as a supplier of an eco-friendly, socially-conscious lifestyle so they want us to provide a wider collection of leather-alternative products — wallets, phone cases, computer cases, belts, travel pouches, etc.”

Mr Dolence was also pleasantly surprised by the opportunities that opened up at the Pasifika Business Market.

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