WATTIE, James, C.B.E.
A new biography of Wattie, James appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
James Wattie was born on 23 March 1902 at Hawarden, North Canterbury, the third son of William John Wattie and Annie, née Gifkins. He moved to Hastings with his parents and attended Hastings West School. In 1915 he went to work at the Hawke's Bay Fruit Produce and Cool Storage Co., and two years later joined the Hawke's Bay Farmers Meat Co., where he studied accountancy in his spare time and rose to the position of assistant accountant. In 1925 he became secretary to Hawke's Bay Fruitgrowers Ltd., but was soon promoted to manager. While there he formed the idea of establishing a canning factory. In 1934 he formed J. Wattie Canneries Ltd. and opened his first factory in a small building leased from Hawke's Bay Fruitgrowers Ltd.
The venture proved successful and the factory expanded rapidly. During the Second World War the firm produced dehydrated foods, which were supplied to the New Zealand and American forces. After 1947 Wattie's began the quick freezing of vegetables, a process which led to spectacular economic development in the Hawke's Bay and Poverty Bay districts. In 1951 a branch factory was opened in Gisborne. In 1956 the New Zealand Government arranged for Wattie to visit the Cook Islands to investigate the possibility of establishing a canning industry there. More recently he has come into prominence as the owner of Even Stevens, the winner of the 1962 Melbourne Cup and other Australian turf classics. He was created C.B.E. in January 1963.