Johannes Tietze, CEO, Libelle Group Ltd
Junk food ads are rife on TV, in movies, and online. It has even found its way into school cafeterias and vending machines. Though the link between junk food and childhood obesity has been well-established over the years, little has been done to address it. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1 billion people, including 650 million adults, 340 million adolescents, and 39 million children worldwide are obese. And, this number is still increasing. Despite the obesity epidemic across the world, many schools still have junk food lurking in their vending machines, cafeteria lines, and even on their lunch trays. The result? Poor nutrition and obesity, which may further lead to low self-esteem, dyslipidaemia, diabetes, and heart ailments.
To address this issue and give the hungry learners of New Zealand a chance to improve their learning potential through nutritionally balanced food, Libelle Group Ltd came to the forefront. Libelle is a leading school food and beverage retail service provider with a tuck shop brand that has become a benchmark in the industry. Incorporated in 2005, Libelle was the offshoot of a catering company. It all started with a pilot project at Birkenhead College where Libelle served students with healthy alternatives instead of junk food options like pies, confectionery, and soft drinks. It implemented a model based on powerful milk, bread, water, and juice brands complemented by homemade hot meals and – free fruit. And thus, the original school tuck shop brand was born. It saw incredible success soon after its launch. The results were staggering with higher volumes of water and juice from funky dispensers being sold per day. And, within the first year, students consumed 7.8 tonnes of apples, bananas, and kiwi fruit. The concept spread quickly amongst a tight network of school management and the company grew over time, focusing solely on school tuck shops and canteen. They have further spread this concept and are diversifying in to delivering nutritious solutions in other sectors, including recently taking over the food services contract at the Northland Events Centre.
Delivering a Professional and Efficient Service to Every Customer
In 2019 the Government announced Ka ora, Ka ako—a free and healthy lunch in schools programme which launched its pilot in Rotorua. As a part of the programme, Libelle Group now serves over 33,000 lunches to children every school day around the country, on top of over 60 canteens, and boarding school contracts. They won the Central Auckland Westpac Business Award from Strategy & Planning (2021), highlighting their incredible internet systems and processes to implement a strong business model.
While the Government’s Ka ora, Ka ako programme triggered exponential growth, Libelle has grown further as a company, provider a wider range of food services nationwide. It also has a food service contract with the Northland Events Centre, where it offers nutritional choices at events, and has a strong menu development team that delivers nutritious options to boarding schools, event catering and further food service requirements.
Backed by a passionate team and smart systems, Libelle delivers a professional, efficient, and nutritionally balanced food service for thousands of hungry learners to get them through the day. Libelle Group proudly operates four school food services. First is Lunch By Libelle, a free lunch service to students at schools with high levels of disadvantage, as part of the Government’s Ka Ora Ka Ako | Health School Lunches programme. Second, Champion Tuckshops, a school retail service providing healthier lunch alternatives in school tuckshops. The third is Lunch Orders, an innovative online school lunch delivery service or click and collect and the fourth is school Boarding Service, a complete school boarding house or hostel service. Finally, Libelle Catering provides food solutions for any occasion, with a nutrition focus. “Libelle Group has been a creative driver in shaping modern school food for the benefit of our kiwi kids. We understand the importance of a nutritious meal and that it is critical to student health, well-being, and learning,” asserts Johannes Tietze, the CEO of Libelle Group Limited.
“We are proud to be a family-owned New Zealand business that has been serving hungry learners healthy and nutritious food in all corners of Aotearoa since 2004” he adds.
Fostering a Healthy, Value-driven Work Culture
Libelle caters to several customers and clients including the ministry of education, school professionals (business managers, principals, teachers, and school staff), students, communities (for example, when catering events at the northland events centre), and parents. The company always strives to have a very active relationship with its customers and work with them to tailor its solution to ensure they are kept engaged and happy with its offerings. Not only is Libelle recognized for its customer-centric approach, but it is also equally dedicated to fostering a healthy workplace and supporting each of its employees. The company prioritises the physical, mental and overall safety of its staff, students, schools, and external partners at all times. It operates in a way that ensures the safety and well-being of its work environment and the wider communities it partner with. Keeping safety, prosperity, respect, and excellence at its core, it seeks to continuously improve its offerings and to be the best at whatever it undertakes. “We are also a family business and stress how important our Libelle family and their own family at home are to us. We work to bring about growth, sustainability, development, and progression for all involved with Libelle. We treat our communities, suppliers, environment, schools, and students with consideration and value them as partners,” opines Johannes.
Expanding To Feeding the Wider Community
Today, Libelle has come a long way since its inception with its expansive growth over recent years. But not resting on its laurels, the company plans to continue building systems and processes to complement its achievements. Currently, it is focusing on building a commercial manufacturing facility that will be preparing around 100,000 meals per week which can be distributed nationwide. It aims to produce nutritious, ready-to-heat and-eat meals to reduce labour costs and increase efficiency. “While we continue to feed hungry learners, we are expanding to feeding the wider community as well. We have obtained the main food facilities contract at the Northland Events Centre, and are expanding our resources and facilities to be able to service several other communities and contracts,” concludes Johannes.
Libelle continues to exert energy and resources into research, aiming to push nutrition and healthy food values to everyone, not just learners.