Taste Nature | Passionate providers of the best food possible for Dunedin

Integrity is a word not lightly used at Taste Nature. For owners Rayna and Mark Dickson, above right, it is the bedrock of their business that is lived and breathed, not just by them, but by the whole team – employees and suppliers – and has underpinned the “slow and steady growth” of this Dunedin organic store, kitchen and eatery.

Based at 131 High Street, Taste Nature is a community hub for all things organic in Dunedin. There is a garden in Waitati that supplies the store, alongside produce and wholefoods from over 70 New Zealand suppliers.

Taste Nature has a strong ethos on minimising packaging and provides a return and refund system for reuseable containers. A newly purchased EV van is used for a home delivery service recently introduced.

Established in 1992 as Silverpeaks Bay Products Ltd, it occupied various sites before settling in Moray Place. Originally growers on a small scale for Taste Nature, the Dicksons purchased the business in 2003, and in 2009, moved to new premises in the old Bing Harris Building in lower High Street. This allowed for an expanded product range and development of new products produced inhouse.

In 2011, Rayna and Mark opened a small eatery adjacent to the kitchen so customers could enjoy food made fresh daily from the seasonal ingredients and produce.

The customer base is quite diverse and very loyal, Rayna says. Knowing customers and taking a genuine interest in them is integral to providing a positive shopping experience that is relaxed and pleasurable.

“We have a great team of people on our staff. They know our products well and they willingly share this with our customers. They’re genuinely interested in helping people and want to provide a good service. Like us, they are strong on integrity.

“Our product range is comprehensive but it’s not overwhelming, and we work hard to share the provenance of what we source. People want to know this and how they are produced.”

To this end, clear and direct information is displayed attractively and the organic certification status of the products stocked, is clearly shown.

A home delivery service of boxes of seasonal produce, or personally ordered items, is available with deliveries in town on a Wednesday and by courier, further afield on Thursdays.

Mark is generally found ‘front of house’ while Rayna largely works ‘behind the scenes’, taking care of many of the business aspects including marketing, HR and business development. She liaises with Dave Russell and Leeanne Barnes from Markhams Otago, who have served them “from the outset”.

“They’ve been with us through every stage of our development,” says Rayna. “From when we were growing veges and selling them, to buying Taste Nature, moving premises to double our space, developing the eatery and everything since. Dave has always been very supportive, taking care of our tax and at the end of the phone for curly questions.”

Being within walking distance of the Markhams Otago office is handy. Leeanne is always available to “pop down” to help with any pressing MYOB issues. “We really appreciate the team approach.”

Looking to the future, Rayna says not to expect anything dramatic. “We will continue to grow slowly and steadily, but it is a changing environment and while it’s a good thing that the organic market has grown, it’s making us work harder to retain our true integrity. But we will always stand by the organic status of what we offer.”