Business success … in the can

Fly spray was probably the very last thing on Marcus Berry’s mind when he arrived in the UK to attend a family wedding. But, after a well-timed tip-off, he returned to Hawke’s Bay with a solid business idea, and a very large piece of kit.

Laid back doesn’t even begin to describe Marcus Berry.

The equanimous founder of Pacific Aerosol in Whakatu keeps a cool head and a low profile – just the way he likes it. Motivated less by market share and courting media than he is to responsive customer service and supporting his team’s lifestyle choices, he’s built a successful business that, while niche, has probably touched every Kiwi home in some way.

At the company HQ, borer bombs sit on a shelving unit alongside lubricants, degreasing solutions and hand sanitiser. Pacific Aerosol produces them all, and it’s entirely likely one of their products is in your cupboard, garden shed or office, right now.

Just don’t expect to see a big shiny Pacific Aerosol logo on your can of fly spray. They’re contract manufacturers – under the radar, and happy to be. Even participating in an article with BayBuzz is well out of Marcus’s comfort zone, he confides. “I don’t like talking about myself. I mean, I’ve been to some of those business mentor lunches and bits and pieces, but they weren’t for me.”

This type of candour is typical of Marcus, who says he never really intended to start an aerosol business. But his dad’s company, Chemz, which wholesales automotive and electrical spray products, as well as spray paints and primers and an array of cleaning and sanitising formulations, was having a problem getting its cans filled. “While at the wedding, we were discussing this with my English father-in-law, and he started browsing through auction sites. He found an aerosol line for sale that was being decommissioned by a pharmaceuticals company moving its operation to Poland. We went to have a look, and it fit the bill.”

Armed with a chemistry degree and enough experience in pulp and paper manufacturing – where he’d spent the lion’s share of his career – to understand how filling cans with propane might work, Marcus placed a bid. It was not a competitive process. “There weren’t any other offers, so it was ours,” he says, adding “We paid next to nothing for it.”

A few weeks later, a couple of tonnes of metal turned up in a container at Napier Port, then sat in storage for over a year while Marcus worked out his next steps.

The business – one of only four aerosol filling companies in the country – was established first at rented space in Awatoto, before the Berrys purchased a site in Hastings, building a fit-for-purpose factory. Chemz was, naturally, Marcus’s first customer (accounting for a quarter of business to this day), but it wasn’t long before word spread – Pacific Aerosol was the new kid on the block, filling small runs (or larger ones) of cans at a competitive price. If your product needed propellant, this was the business to help.

Paul Hindmarsh came on board five years ago as Chief Operating Officer. He laughs when asked what the client attraction strategy is. “Do we have one?” he quips, eyeing his boss. “We don’t put a great deal of effort into the website, or write detailed strategic plans. We don’t have a sales function, but somehow people find us, and by the time they do, they’re a long way through the buying process and ready to act.”


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First published by BayBuzz. Click here to read the full article.