How the Tradelink story started
Walter Steele founded what is now known as Tradelink in 1964, utilizing 5.5 acres of Auckland, New Zealand land as a nursery for fruits and vegetables under the name Blackbridge Nurseries – a brand that still exists in New Zealand today. Walter and his family had an insatiable desire to grow produce of the highest quality. They utilized greenhouses, soil science, and hydroponics to achieve strong yields and a reputation of consistency, while selling their products at open markets.
Tradelink expanded into new industries and grew its customer base
In 1986 when their grapes couldn’t be sold for profit locally, a friend suggested Walter target flight kitchens for airlines. This pursuit opened up levels of scale and scope Walter hadn’t previously considered. To meet this new opportunity, the family upgraded to a larger property with more greenhouses and 2 small homes. Through hard work, diversified supply and the building of regional partnerships, the business expanded quickly growing hydroponic herbs and adding fruit cleaning and processing capabilities. This resulted in large contracts within the QSR, medical and hospitality industries. Every deal was done by fax and phone in those days and Tradelink remains committed to doing business the right way, through personal relationships built on trust and mutual benefit. At just 18 years old, Walter’s son Mark Steele handled much of the day-to-day operations through Blackbridge’s expansion and is Tradelink’s President today.
Building upon Tradelink’s core values they spread overseas to expand their service
Walter and Mark talked to the employees every day and worked alongside them. They always believed in caring for their people, they provided opportunities for those with disabilities or people who were down and out, the company has always cared as much about their own people as their customers. From the beginning, Tradelink was a company built on integrity.
In 1994, Blackbridge was sold, and Mark looked at replicating the Blackbridge model in South America to alleviate the poverty he saw during his visits heading west. The Steele family had always had friends in Argentina as it was common for New Zealanders to stop there when headed west. Mark picked up his family, including 3 boys and 2 daughters and relocated to Buenos Aires, Argentina where Tradelink officially began with the purchase of a large manufacturing space, freezers and processing and packaging areas.
To help build a strong global supply chain Tradelink joined with the Santé Group
After 30 years, these assets were sold and Tradelink pivoted into the International supply space, primarily focused on helping North American manufacturers and CPG companies diversify their supply chains through the location, validation and shipping of international commodities and ingredients.
In 2019, Tradelink was purchased by the Santé Group out of Sydney, Australia. Santé is owned and operated by lifelong family friends of the Steeles and has provided heightened logistics, project management, structure and customer service capabilities.
Tradelink and Santé group continue to fulfil the priority of Walter Steele: to improve the lives of human beings around the world through the food industry.