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The Gibb family story

Updated: Jun 12, 2019

Just where did this fruit loving Gibb journey begin?

New Zealand’s popular frozen berry brand is a family story: the result of three generations love for berries.

New Zealand’s Sujon berry selections are chosen and processed by John and Sue Gibb and family living in sunny Nelson. Nelson is world famous for its berries, apples, kiwifruit and beer hops: the result of having New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours and a very plant-friendly eco-climate.

John Gibb grew up on the wild West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island where his parents had the legendary ‘Tank & Tummy Centre’ in Kumara Junction, a combination diner and petrol station famous for his mum’s homemade baking.

In the late 1970’s John met Sue, married and moved with her to Nelson where they started growing stone fruits such as apricots and nectarines. But in Nelson they tasted boysenberries for the first time and fell in love with the richly aromatic and taste-zinging berry.

They started growing boysenberries themselves and quickly established one of New Zealand’s major boysenberry farms. In the 1980’s all berries were sold fresh or as jams and cordials. John and Sue started selling frozen boysenberries to home-cooks and chefs in the Nelson area.

Success led to freezing commercial quantities of boysenberries for delivery to chefs throughout New Zealand. Demand for their high quality frozen boysenberries led to requests for other berry types. In 1988 they started selling a range of berries nationwide through food distributor Amalgamated (ARFD) and in 1989 did their first Industry Trade Show in Christchurch.

Over the next two decades they developed the brand ‘Sujon’ for their range of berries, a combination of their names ‘Sue’ and ‘John’, and became the major New Zealand frozen berry fruit brand.

Sujon products are available through leading retailers and foodservice distributors and exports to Singapore, Pacific Islands, United Kingdom, Japan, Norfolk Island and Australia.

In 2005 daughter Michelle, who had always worked in the family’s berry fields (along with her sister and brothers) picking berries in the school holidays, joined the company full time and quickly showed that she had inherited John and Sue’s love for berries as well .

Another 18 months later the company made the investment to build a state of the art processing facility in Tahunanui with the latest freezing technology available.

RT Hon Prime Minister Helen Clark congratulates John and Sue Gibb on their contribution to the New Zealand Berryfruit industry

RT Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister of New Zealand opened the premises and acknowledged the investment and commitment made to maintain its quality edge over its international competitors.

Michelle learned all of the company’s operations, helping developing new markets, and is now the company’s General Manager. Michelle’s own daughters, Sophie and Stephanie are already showing a love for berries and are often seen at harvest time with their grandmother Sue, tasting the berries and learning how to pick the best and ripest before ‘grandma’ makes them some homemade berry ice-cream.

Maybe they will be the fourth generation of Gibbs to make berries their passion and livelihood!

Wishing you all berry good health, Love Sue, John and Michelle.

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