Heilala Vanilla began as an aid project after a cyclone
A vanilla plantation was established by a New Zealand family, in partnership with a local family from the village of Utungake in Vava’u, Kingdom of Tonga.
In 2005 the first crop was harvested and snapped up by local chefs. Since these small beginnings and a first harvest of 45kg of dried vanilla beans, Heilala has partnered with growers throughout Tonga celebrating their 10th harvest of vanilla beans in 2015. This has had a significant impact on the Tongan economy providing employment and infrastructure across a number of communities.
Products are sold into specialty food retail and fine dining establishments and gourmet food manufacturers in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Japan, Brazil, Denmark and the United States.As well as being a huge boost for growers in Tonga, Heilala’s growth and global push is proving to be good news for other vanilla producers. Heilala has recently partnered with a new group of vanilla growers in Uganda working as a cooperative to improve the livelihoods of the community, in particular women. This partnership was based around our shared values of empowering growers as well as producing high quality Bourbon Vanilla Beans with a flavour profile similar to that of Tongan beans.
Heilala is also aiming to develop the vanilla industry in the South Pacific and is assisting and advising growers in the Cook Islands, Fiji and Samoa. Vanilla growing is still in its early stages in these other South Pacific countries but Heilala hopes to include these islands in the future supply chain.
In 2013, the Heilala Vanilla Foundation was established to ensure the ongoing sustainability of their unique partnership with the community in Tonga. The Foundation is a registered charitable trust with the NZ Charities Commission and each year selects a project to benefit the people of Vava’u.
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