Family-owned Lothlorien Winery has perfected the art of making quality feijoa wine and has carved out a strong niche in the New Zealand liquor market.

Lothlorien, established by the DeMeulemeester family in the Ahuroa Valley, launched the feijoa wine with a music festival in 1993 and started selling in local Puhoi and Warkworth stores and at the popular Matakana Farmers’ Market.

Family members have maintained their loyalty and still man their stall at the Matakana market every Saturday. But Lothlorien, New Zealand and arguably the world’s only certified organic feijoa winery, has a become a national retailer and its product is stocked in the two major supermarket chains owned by Foodstuffs and Woolworths NZ (formerly Progressive Enterprises). 

Lothlorien is also developing an export market in China, having sent a container of 9000 750ml bottles in November 2017. The wine is sold under a local label.   

lothlorien wine
Lothlorien’s certified organic wine is now selling in New Zealand’s major supermarket chains

Reaching the supermarkets

In March 2018 Lothlorien began supplying the Countdown supermarket chain and has devised a promotional campaign on social media and in-store demonstrations to boost sales.

“Overnight our concern went from increasing customers to being able to meet supply and hold the ground,” says Lothlorien managing director Eli DeMeulemeester (pictured above). “That’s the challenge and focus this summer (2018/19) – to maintain, and even increase, the number of Countdown stores we are supplying.”

Lothlorien’s feijoa wine is sold in 70 Countdown stores, along with 50 New World and Pak’nSave supermarkets. The winery is now supplying 350 retail outlets in New Zealand including liquor and specialty stores and bars and restaurants.

Supermarket sales grew 26 per cent for the year ending 2018, while overall growth finished at 6.2 per cent. “We are happy with that level of growth,” says Eli. ``When we started in 1993 people were so receptive that we were providing an alternative.

“But there’s so much choice and competition in the liquor market now with the explosion of craft beer, cider, new wine brands and the whole RTDs. Our point of difference is certified organic sparkling feijoa wine.”   

Overnight our concern went from increasing customers to being able to meet supply and hold the ground”

Eli DeMeulemeester, Lothlorien Winery managing director.

How it all started

Father Dale DeMeulemeester, an American who moved to the Auckland region from Detroit in 1970, planted 1000 feijoa trees after buying the old dairy farm in the Ahuroa Valley in 1971. 

Dale was a Tolkien lover and called his property Lothlorien, the forest realm of the Elves, well before The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy was mooted. His son Eli set up the winery in 1993 with Dale and winemaker Logan Petley by converting a packing shed on the property.

Eli’s wife Kim looks after media and design, sister Amaya takes control of the labelling and packing, and Dale is the orchard manager. Admin and distribution are managed by Toni-Marie Kaska who joined the team in 2015.

Lothlorien’s feijoa, and grapefruit, trees produce about 60 tonnes of fruit each year and the winery made 60,000 bottles of wine in 2018, with the capacity to reach 80,000 bottles. The wines, now under the watchful eye of winemaker Justin Oliver, are blended with organic apple, imported from Hawke’s Bay, to balance the acidity. 

Lothlorien has added 200ml three-packs, as well as 750ml bottles, for its Dry and Medium Sparkling Organic Feijoa. Its premium Reserve wine is made with the best feijoas of the season. Lothlorien also produces Dry Still Feijoa wine, Feijoa and Manuka Honey Liquer, Poormans Orange Juice (New Zealand Grapefruit) and Apple and Feijoa Juice.  

How ATEED helped

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) has played a strong role in Lothlorien’s growth. “ATEED provided outside assistance for specific needs – connections that we would otherwise struggle to find,’’ says Eli.   

Since 2013, ATEED facilitated four NZTE Capability vouchers under the Regional Business Partner Network, and Lothlorien continued to work with training provider Buy Pure New Zealand.   

The latest voucher helped fund a Getting Fit for Market programme that included developing a national distribution strategy and creating a promotional campaign to support sales through the supermarkets.  

“It’s a holistic programme,” says Eli. “The training was not just about selling into the marketplace but also making sure we have a sustainable supply and can keep selling.” Lothlorien was also connected to a specialist agency which completed a brand audit and made suggestions about ways to increase the awareness and knowledge of its wine.  

“We knew how to grow feijoas and make the wine, but we needed more expertise and valuable advice in selling the product,” says Eli. “The ATEED support has definitely been useful.”    

Lothlorien now has a long-term sustainable plan. “We can’t grow indefinitely and will always be a niche producer. We will continue to work hard and head towards production of 100,000 bottles a year,” says Eli.  

At a glance

Lothlorien Winery’s business: Produces and markets award-winning organic feijoa wine, liqueur, and fruit juice.  

Location: Ahuroa Valley near Puhoi  

Export markets: China  

ATEED assisted by: Making connections and facilitating NZTE Capability vouchers that enabled Lothlorien Winery to grow its business.  Some of the funding was used for a Getting Fit for Market programme.  


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