The Murphy’s New Zealand Story
Today, Murphy’s New Zealand is headed day-to-day by John & Jessie Murphy, with Pat Murphy managing growing and Duncan Gillanders assisting. Jessie heads up administration, sales, and marketing, with Dane Smith running the packing and process operations. We have 40 eager team members helping us grow garlic and shallots across Marlborough and Canterbury.
We started growing garlic three generations ago, when in 1962 Vera Murphy planted a 10 x 10 metre plot of garlic in Rapaura, Blenheim.
By 1965 Vera had trebled her garlic production. Destined for sale at the local farmers market, the garden plot was the beginnings of what is now a 85 hectare farming operation. The year following Vera’s successful harvest and sale of the first crop, husband John (known as Mick) planted a full field on their family farm – the entire crop was exported to Fiji. Around the same time Mick began experimenting with shallots.
Back in 1978, Vera’s son Patrick Murphy and his wife Gaye increased their crop to meet a growing demand for New Zealand garlic.
There were upwards of 20 families growing garlic in Marlborough on a commercial scale at the time.
“I began marketing for other growers a few years later,” say's Pat, “New Zealand garlic was just a great product. People loved its superior taste and everyone knows that it's good for you”.
At the time, the core of the New Zealand garlic business focused on exporting premium product to Australia, and ‘fancy grade’ garlic to Fiji, with the rest sold around New Zealand.
“There were some real characters involved in the garlic industry through the 80’s and 90's”, he says. “Many of them have gone on to be significant players in the Marlborough Wine Industry and other areas”.
New Zealand Garlic had always been well received by chefs and home cooks, but faced a new challenge with massive international production ramping up in the ‘90s.
Exports from China to the world began on a massive scale, with more than 5 million individual garlic growers entering the global garlic market. This changed the face of the market completely.
At the same time at home in Marlborough, New Zealand, farmers began focusing on the bourgeoning opportunities in the Marlborough wine industry, with many moving away from garlic and other crops.
The availability of cheaper imported garlic around the world led to a massive drop in prices as garlic went from being considered a gourmet product to a commodity. New Zealand exports to Fiji were discontinued. Australia, which had previously been the biggest market for NZ garlic growers, also made a switch to cheaper options.
Pat and Gaye Murphy faced the question of whether New Zealand garlic and shallots were something kiwis wanted to support.
“Ultimately we had enough encouragement from chefs and home cooks saying “your product tastes better and is good for you” says Gaye.
In 2008, Pat and Gaye and their son John took control of the garlic company that they had worked with for more than 25 years.
"It was clear that NZ Garlic and Shallots were highly valued by cooks, and that there was an opportunity for us to do things a little differently," says John. "It's been hard work to grow our family Company, but ultimately it's very exciting to work with products that NZ'ers really love".
Fast forward to 2013, when Murphy’s began making Black Garlic.
We were introduced to the product when we were asked to send fresh garlic to Japan for processing into Black Garlic. We tried the product and have loved it ever since. Black Garlic’s stunning flavours lend it to use with cheese, on platters, and as a snack. It has completely changed how we look at garlic!
In 2015, long time Murphy’s New Zealand marketers Rob and Penny Fisher, and Pat and Gaye’s daughter Sarah Lowe and her husband Adrian became shareholders of Murphy’s New Zealand Ltd., alongside Gaye, Patrick and John.
2021 saw John and his wife Jessie lead the company