Diane brings the fashion back into picnics

Picnic Box Food Truck
Diane Stanbra uses the very best artisan food for her pre-ordered picnic boxes.

Growing up in Tauranga, Diane Stanbra fondly remembers her family picnics. “We went to the races with our marmite and chip sandwiches. They were an absolute classic.”

Diane has turned her love for picnics into a fast-growing business, Picnic Box. Her picnics today are a touch more sophisticated. The marmite and chip sandwiches have been replaced by glazed champagne ham, free-range roast chicken, tasty cheeses and hand-made treats.

“We are quite unique – we just do picnics,’’ says Diane. “A picnic is traditional and we keep it authentic and practical.”

Diane started Picnic Box in December 2011, first supplying picnic boxes at the Silo Park night market in Wynyard Quarter and for the movies. Now she concentrates on the corporate market, providing pre-ordered picnic boxes of artisan food for conferences, functions and events.

Brides and grooms are also ordering the fresh, handcrafted picnics for their weddings at the beach or in the park.

Picnic Box increased turnover by nearly 200 per cent in the financial year ending March 2014 and has set a target of growing 30 per cent each year after that. The revenue growth, along with effective planning and delivery, was recognised in the Auckland Westpac Business awards when Picnic Box was named Best Emerging Business North.

“When I was entering the awards, I went back and found my original business plan and saw that I had done everything I had written down – which is rewarding,” says Diane. “We have a couple of exciting opportunities and we are pretty much on track with forecasting and budgeting.”

She says winning the Best Emerging Business award was a “confidence booster.’’ It showed that Diane had made large strides since the early days of her business.

“To begin with I was turning up at different events and hoping to sell picnics. I had the opportunities but I didn’t know which way to go.” Diane decided to get some proper business advice.

She contacted Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) and after meeting business advisor Jennifer Dahl she finished up with plenty of contacts and connections.

“Jennifer was just an angel,” says Diane. “I was getting out my depth and Jennifer outlined the support out there. She opened up a whole new world for me and introduced me to networks like the Auckland Convention Bureau.”

ATEED facilitated three New Zealand Trade and Enterprise business capability vouchers for Picnic Box, and the funding was used for mentoring with The ICEHOUSE incubator. There, Diane developed a high-level strategic plan, setting goals and objectives and keeping the business on track.

Instead of selling on-site, Picnic Box took orders and targeted the higher end corporate market. Picnic Box, for example, has taken orders for 500 family packs at a staff Christmas party and is supplying Villa Maria for its winery tours and concerts.

The company has prepared picnic boxes for the TRENZ conference in Rotorua, National Agricultural Fieldays at Mystery Creek and the 2016 Champagne and Chardonnay Winemakers conference in Gisborne.

Picnic Box is also supplying customers at major events such as the Heineken and ASB Classic tennis tournaments, and the Boxing Day races at Ellerslie.

Diane left her job as business development manager with a Mt Maunganui software company towards the end of 2014 to concentrate full-time on her own business.

Using an executive chef, Picnic Box has created a range of classic picnics – including free-range roast chicken with homemade stuffing; Freedom Farms champagne ham with Farmhouse French mustard; antipasto of deli meats, marinated mixed olives, sundried tomatoes and peppadews; seasonal vegetable quiche and a children's picnic box.

“It comes down to quality; that’s so important,” says Diane. “The feedback we constantly get is how fresh and tasty the food is. We make a lot of things ourselves and use the very best artisan food from around New Zealand. I like to showcase exciting new producers.

“A lot of care goes into our picnic boxes, even down to the compostable packaging the picnics come in,” she says.