Today, John Burton Ltd imports high quality green coffee beans, sourced from more than 25 countries around the world, and distributes them to New Zealand coffee roasters. The company also imports and sells bulk tea and tea bags from Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.
However, the story began four generations ago in 1936, when John’s grandfather, Herbert Burton, set up HE Burton Ltd, a tea importing business. Herbert was joined by his sons, Jack and Geoff, after the Second World War, and the business grew to become a major importer of tea, selling it in bulk to NZ Packers. After Herbert died in 1961, his sons continued in the business, and were joined by Jack’s son, John, in 1979. John began importing coffee beans and selling them to roasters until HE Burton was sold in 1982 to a French company.
In 1985, John set up his own company, John Burton Ltd, and continued importing coffee and tea, as well as diversifying into other commodities such as orange and pineapple juice concentrate, canned pineapple and sugar (about the time the New Zealand government relaxed import duties and eliminated import licences). John’s father, Jack, continued to work part time until 1995, and passed away in 2011. John’s brother David is also heavily involved in the coffee industry, with his company ‘Jack’s Coffee’.
In 2013, John’s daughter Alice joined the company, to continue on the family business culture. John’s business philosophy was learnt from his father and grandfather. He believes ethics, integrity and honesty are paramount, and that maintaining strong relationships with suppliers and customers is fundamental to the development of a successful business. He has continued to pass these on to his daughter.