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Local traditions . . . Rain bow Confectionery sales and marketing administrator Cathy Keep says the company is proud to do things the way they have always been done. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON

Most people are only now starting to realise that Easter is just around the corner.

But at Rainbow Confectionery, the festive event has been on the minds of staff since October, when the company started production of 9 million marshmallow easter eggs.

The confectionery manufacturer’s sales and marketing administrator Cathy Keep said it had been a hectic five months.

And as other companies have changed the design of their popular marshmallow eggs to be cut down the middle and sold as a half egg shape, Oamaru’s Rainbow Confectionery continues to do things the good old-fashioned way, using people power to join 18million egg halves together by hand.

“I haven’t seen a chicken lay half an egg,” Ms Keep said.

“It’s the way Kiwis expect it to be done.”

Holiday job . . . University student Nicole Bond works at one of two foiling machines, where the marshmallow eggs get individually wrapped in gold foil. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Other products such as milk bottles and pineapple chunks, which were invented at the company, were still done in the same way they always had been.

“It’s maintaining that [tradition],” she said.

“They are iconic Kiwi lollies that are made here.”

Rainbow Confectionery had been an Oamaru institution since 1949, when Regina Confections Ltd, as it was then known, moved its productions from Dunedin, Ms Keep said.

In 1995, it was sold to Nestle, which closed the company in 2001.

It was then brought by New Zealand private investors Patrick Betty, Rod Thornton and Ray White, who reopened the plant that year.

Initially, the company re-employed six people. At present, it has 87 permanent staff.

To help meet its yearly demand of Easter eggs, 40 additional staff were employed, many of whom were tertiary students, Ms Keep said.

“Lots of them come back year-on-year,” she said.

“It’s nice to be able to provide reliable work for them during their studies.

“If you look at the people in the wider community who have worked here over the years, it’s almost multi-generational.”