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 recently partnered with a new group of vanilla growers in Madagascar. This additional supply of vanilla beans has been selected as they match the flavour profile of the Tongan beans and will be used when required in the manufactured product range.
Heilala is also aiming to get the vanilla industry in the Cook Islands off the ground by assisting and advising growers there. Vanilla growing is still in its early stages but Heilala hopes to include the Cook Islands in the future supply chain.
Recently, Heilala have partnered with Oxfam New Zealand and the the Tonga National Youth Congress (TNYC) to produce Heilala Virgin Coconut Oil.
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.