Heinz Wattie’s Limited (or simply Wattie’s) is a New Zealand-based food producer of frozen and packaged fruit, vegetables, sauces, baby food, cooking sauces, dressings and pet foods in the New Zealand market.
With the establishment of a new plant at Gisborne in 1952, in an area perfect for the growing of sweet corn, Wattie’s became the first food processor in New Zealand to offer both canned and frozen corn. Other major product lines in years to come would include tuna, baby foods, and pet food.
Founded in 1934 by Sir James Wattie, the company operated in New Zealand under the name of J. Wattie Canneries Limited (later J Wattie Foods Limited and its related companies). In 1980, Wattie Industries and Goodman Fielder purchased shares in each other’s companies which led to a merger in 1987 to create Goodman Fielder Wattie Ltd. In 1992 the Wattie’s group was bought from Goodman Fielder by American-based H. J. Heinz Company for $565 million.
Watties finally closed its Gisborne plant in 1997 and a Warehouse dept store now stands in its spot.
There have been stories passed around by former staff, of unusual occurrences around the processing areas and administration offices. From bathroom taps being turned off and on at night, the feeling of unease and of being watched, doors and cupboards would bang and slam without any visible cause, footsteps were heard, loud metallic pounding sounds, tools were thrown and the sound of laughing sometimes echoed across the factory.
One office worker has mentioned her phone would often ring. On answering, she would be greeted with loud static and a person’s (thought to be that of a woman) inaudible voice, overshadowed by the crackling noise.
Allegedly, the bodies of three people were discovered, buried under the building when construction workers started digging up the ground to prepare for a new carpark area for the new Warehouse building. We are yet to verify this, however.