Entrepreneurs: Max Puritau, Paradise Spices

Managing generational change is a big challenge for any business. Kevin McQuillan speaks with 26-year-old Max Puritau, who has taken over his parents’ business, Paradise Spices, and is seeing exports soaring.

Max Puritau (far right) and his father Mickey (centre) welcome former Australian High Commissioner Ian Kemish, Australian Opposition Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, Julie Bishop and Australian Federal MP Jane Prentice to Paradise Spices.

Max Puritau (far right) and his father Mickey (centre) welcome former Australian High Commissioner Ian Kemish, Australian Opposition Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, Julie Bishop and Australian Federal MP Jane Prentice to Paradise Spices.

Paradise Spices has been a leading processor and exporter of spices and vanilla products, coffee and cocoa since 1998.

About 60% of its products are sold offshore, according to 26-year old Max Puritau, who bought out 50% of the company from his father, Mickey, in 2012. The company remains a family affair: his mother, Alu Puritau, still retains a 50% shareholding, while Max’s fiancée, Steffi Temelloso, is both operations manager and sales and marketing manager.

Max tells Business Advantage PNG he is taking a new approach to the company.

‘The basic idea of the whole business now is to try and create new products using PNG-grown crops and keep the consistencies flowing.’

‘Currently, we are buying and selling vanilla beans, bird’s eye [or Thai] chilli, galip nuts, white pepper, cardamom, turmeric, nutmeg, cocoa nibs, ginger, cinnamon, and virgin coconut oil.

‘We also have a new range of purified water in 500ml bottles and the vanilla extract.’

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Vanilla base

The humble vanilla bean is the basis of the company’s income, now sitting between US$500,000 and US$700,000 per annum.

‘Vanilla bean has been our main export product until now,’ says Max. ‘In the next six months, you’ll find vanilla extracts, one of our new products, becoming the top product.’

Vanilla extract is a formulated product made by macerating and percolating vanilla beans in a solution of ethyl alcohol and water.

But accessing the vanilla bean is costly and can be problematic. Paradise Spices sources its beans from about 7,000 growers in 12 PNG provinces, but the beans have to be airfreighted into its processing factory in Port Moresby.

‘Bougainville and Rigo produce some of the finest vanilla beans,’ says Max.

‘Farmers are keen to know what is happening in the outside world, in terms of market updates, and how they fit into the exporting side of the business.’

‘The good thing about Bougainvilleans is that they are technical people and when it comes to the critical stage of curing vanilla beans, they really know how to cure vanilla beans.

‘Buyers want consistency,’ he says, ‘and Bougainvilleans provide that consistency. We just have to work with them (farmers).’

International buyers

In early May, a group of buyers flew in from New Zealand and were so impressed with Paradise’s vanilla products, they placed an order for 100 kilograms of beans and 1,000 litres of extract per month for a supermarket chain—an order Max says he will find ‘tough to handle’.

‘It’s not easy just to call a farmer and ask him for 100 kilos and get it the following week. You have to source out vanilla from many different areas.’

Max says he’ll have to travel to as many as 10 villages to get that amount of bean.

A vanilla bean farmer  tests his product

A vanilla bean farmer tests his product. Source: Paradise Spices

To help farmers with the initial cost of freight, Paradise Spices give suppliers a rebate for the first consignment.

‘So with the first load of beans, we pay for the freight and the beans. Once that payment comes through, we tell them they will have to pay for the next consignment.’

Supporting growers

Max also wants to develop the relationship between Paradise Spices and its growers. His father, Mickey, raised the initial capital for the company by running training courses on how to grow vanilla beans. It’s a tradition Max regards as critical for future business.

‘Farmers are keen to know what is happening in the outside world, in terms of market updates, and how they fit into the exporting side of the business.’

Paradise Spices is currently running a one-year program to develop agriculture and income sustainability in Central Province’s Rigo District. It has trained 25 extension officers in 20 different villages with the goal of supplying CPL Group’s Stop N Shop supermarkets with fresh produce.

‘It’s the supply chain that we want to make them aware of: how it forms, how the process works and how we play our role. And to make them aware that their incomes will only increase if the product becomes valuable to the buyers,’ says Puritau.

Industry backing

Max agrees with the Institute of National Affairs’ Paul Barker, who has called on the national government to boost its support for agriculture and to improve infrastructure, particularly roads. But he is full of praise for the PNG Spice Board and its CEO Michael Waisimei and the support it gives in promoting Paradise’s products. He also says the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry has supported the business strongly.

It is this vital combination of industry support and support for growers that will underpin Puritau’s future success.

Kevin McQuillan is Editor at Business Advantage PNG.

Comments

  1. Horim Lawrence Piamia says:

    Hello Max Puritau,
    I’am a vanila grower in East New Britain and I’m also interested in supplying vanilla beans to you. If you are interested please let me know.

    Horim L. Piamia
    Tokua Airport – ENBP

  2. Bernadette Sam says:

    Hi.Iam not a farmer, but iam so much interested in the vanilla market.

    Just seeking help or advice from you people.
    I want to buy vanilla beans from the local buyers and sell them to you at your given price.

  3. Susilo says:

    We buy Vanilla Tahiti dried Grade A long 15 cm up, moisture content 20%, Can you supply per month 5 ton, if you are interested please contact me : Phone +62 8232 5478 456 whatsapp : +62 899 9272 456

  4. Scott Masar says:

    I am very much interested has a member to vanilla cooperative society in West Sepik, we produces and supply more than 200-500 kilos of vanilla beans to New zealand. From my observation, we supplied more and received less. I am looking for a buyer to assist my people in the remote area of west sepik especially in Nuku.

    • DENNIS MCCAMLEY says:

      I am interested in supporting you to purchase Vanilla beans.
      Please advise if you are interested?

      Regards

      Dennis

      • Susilo says:

        To Dennis
        I am interested to purchase Vanilla beans. Please information your products vanilla bean to me.
        Vanilla requirements:
        1. length of 20 cm Up
        2. Dry 2 5 – 10%
        3. Not moldy.
        4. black Colour and scent

        Regards
        Susilo
        Please Call my Contact
        Phone +62 8232 5478 456
        Whatsapp +62 899 9272 456

      • Anna Sani says:

        Hi

        How much would you offer to buy in kilogram?

  5. Matt Buka says:

    Hi Max! You were my neighbour at East Boroko a few years ago.

    I have an individual seeking help to export Turmeric overseas.

    Can you be of any help?

    Thanks.

    • Sakarias Ikio says:

      Matt Buka.

      I have nothing to do with this. I can’t help you, only Max can but I really want to know where you are based, what spices are you going into and what is your current production stage in terms of kilos every month on each particular crop.

      Thanks. Sakarias Ikio
      PNG Spices Industry Development Program (PNGSIDPD0

    • Max Puritau says:

      Hey Matt,

      How are you doing? Sorry for the late response but please email me at mjpuritau@gmail.com and we can continue discussions.

      market access is strong now and i am certain we can assist somewhere.

      Regards,
      Max

  6. Max/Miky Puritau,
    rSir,
    We are doing into spices production in Eastern Highlands under a new program. Currently we have chili products ready to be sold out. Please give us your contect, especially digicel number for us to contect you regularly in order for us to sell our products to you.
    Thanks
    Please contact me on digicel mobile number: 73761799

    • Max Puritau says:

      Hi Sakarias,

      I know this email mean present state – but thank you for the chillis supplied. All chilli went to Australia.

      Regards,
      Max

  7. There is a vanilla boom in Maprik District, East Sepik Province. Vanilla farmers have hu
    ge quality of vanilla to be exported. We request if you could buy our vanilla.

    • Sheldon Melson says:

      Hello,
      I retail vanilla beans in the US, and I’m interested in retailing vanilla from PNG. Do you offer wholesale pricing per kilo, and do you have flexible minimum orders. I would like to start off with a small order of 3 kilos to test the market here in the US, and based on the turnover, will order more vanilla in larger increments. Please email me at srm31201@gmail.com

      Thank you,
      Sheldon

      • After going through your email, I am very much interested as a vanilla farmer in the East Sepik province of Papua New Guinea. I am looking for a buyer to sell my vanilla, if you still want that 3kgs you requested, I can sell it to you..

      • Dear Shemy,
        At first we would like to introduce our company.
        We are a company specialized in import/export vanilla
        We looking for a supplier for New Guinea vanilla pods
        Have you availability for these product ?
        our demand is serious and our web site is http://www.mondevanille.com
        I stay at your disposal.
        Thanks.
        Best regards
        Bruno Aubrun

      • Richard Magumbie says:

        Hi Sheldon contact me through email.. richard.katts@gmail.com or mobile #79372091
        If your interest to purchase PNG vanilla is still active.. I produce 2tone pre month super black in length 25,26,27and 28cm
        For your information
        Kind Regards
        Richard Magumbie

    • Please contact us worldwide.krish@gmail.com

  8. cecil Auti says:

    Requesting if you provide more information on how we can be farmers to supply vanilla beans.

  9. As the General Manager of Lihir Business Services , i would be very much interested in developing a growers co-operative for landowners here on Lihir Island and possibly on some of the outer island.

    • Please contact us worldwide.krish@gmail.com

    • Max Puritau says:

      Hi John,
      Trust you are well.

      I know my response is way over-due but i’d like to say thank you for the work we collaborated in accomplishing at LIHIR. I am still in contact with the guys there and hopefully the mine can support the farmers directly.

      Regards,
      Max

  10. christine kombangil says:

    Requesting if your company is buying cardamon. Thankyou

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