Business of the Year Awards: Sock-maker wins supreme award

Published: 30 May 2022

An Ashburton business that has turned sock-making into a science was crowned supreme winner at the Ashburton District ANZ Business of the Year Awards on Friday night.

NZ Sock Co, established by the Sparrow family in 1980 after they took over a local hosiery, also won the Technology and Innovation Award. Their history of making socks spans across three generations.

Eight category winners were also announced at the awards’ formal gala dinner, held in the Mt Hutt Memorial Hall. The awards were sponsored by ANZ and hosted by the Ashburton District Council and Ri Ra Events.

Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown chose the supreme winner and said most people in the district likely had a pair of NZ Sock socks.

“It’s a privilege to give this award to such an outstanding and locally-grown family business. Your socks have been worn by winners on the sports field, in the boardroom and by armies on the march. You have shown that sock-making is a real science and one that can happen in our own town.”

The inaugural awards attracted 70 entries, which went before a judging panel last year.

Council Community Services Group Manager Steve Fabish it was plain to see that many businesses had taken a step forward, in spite of some challenging times in the past two years.

“The awards have shown just how innovative and world-leading some of the businesses in this district are. It was our first time running the awards and we’ll consider all the feedback we have gathered along the way and look at how we might improve them for when we next run this event.

“There will be regular updates on our website and lots of information to share ahead of the next awards.”

The category winners were:

Excellence in Primary Industries - Carrfields

What the judges said:

Carrfields is a well-established family business and they really impressed with their commitment to their people, their customers and the innovation they put into new product. Their desire to create value for farmers really shone through.

Highly commended - Align Farms

Excellence in Manufacturing – Kaipak

What the judges said:

Kaipak is a small team that are masters at making plastic jars for the food industry right here in Ashburton. They have taken a simple product and created so much value around it, by using clever technology and recycled plastic. We were wowed by their innovation.

Highly commended – NZ Sock Co

Excellence in Tourism – Ashburton Aviation Museum

What the judges said:

This was a keenly contested category but the winner stood out for what they have already done and for what they have planned in the future. Their story telling is superb and professional, especially for a volunteer-run organisation, whose members are clearly passionate about aviation history. They are engaged with their visitors and their next level of development is huge.

Highly commended – Southern Cross Lodge

Excellence in Not-For-Profit – Methven Lions Club

What the judges said:

Every small town needs a club like this. They are an exceptionally well-run club, with access to great resources and they enjoy great engagement within their membership and the community. They have lots of good projects, like the Methven walkway, and keep delivering and improving community assets.

Highly commended – Ashburton Aviation Museum

Excellence in Export – TranzAlpine Honey

What the judges said:

This was the closest of all the categories and the winner showed all the things you would expect of a great export business. They have good connections to market, good products, good diversity and a good story behind their products, which are organic and sustainably packaged.

Highly commended – NZ Sock Co and Midland Apiaries

Excellence in Technology and Innovation – NZ Sock Co

What the judges said:

We saw that a sock is not just a sock, it’s a science. This company was happy to share the innovation, research and technology that is behind socks that are worn everyday, for medical reasons or for extreme environments. They clearly stood out in this category.

Highly commended – Agricultural Consulting Services

Bevan Rickerby Future Business Leader Award – Justin Skilling

What the judges said:

The talent we have in this district is mind-blowing and Justin stood out for his vision for Ashburton. He is embedded in the community and wants to redevelop the Triangle, and he also supports other businesses. He is not just talking about it, he is doing it.

Highly commended – Anna Johnson

People’s Choice for Retail – The Stork Network

This award was decided by public vote and just one vote separated the winner from runner-up Hyundai Mid Canterbury.

Runner-up – Hyundai Mid Canterbury

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