Producers spanning the breadth of Aotearoa from the Chatham Islands to Akaroa and its length from Southland to Northland were among the Champions in this year’s Outstanding NZ Food Producer (ONZFP) Awards, with Chatham Island Food Co named Supreme Champion 2022. It’s the first time in the awards’ six-year history that seafood has taken out the top award.
Established by seventh-generation Chatham Islander, Delwyn Tuanui and his wife Gigi, Chatham Island Food Co has turned the Chatham Islands distance into a positive. Its isolation – 800km east of the South Island – means a pristine environment, which is reflected in the flavour and quality of its harvest. The business processes its marine harvest on the island, freezing in the flavour to share with seafood lovers across New Zealand.
Studying agriculture in Melbourne in the early 2000s was life-changing for Del. He met Gigi on his first day and came to appreciate the love for quality of seafood from the Chathams when cooking it for friends and later supplying it to top Sydney and Melbourne restaurants. In 2015 the pair purchased a rundown fish-processing plant on Wharekauri and Chatham Island Food Co began in earnest. Now they employ 25 staff and work with 30 fishing boats.
In addition to being named Supreme Champion 2022, Chatham Island Food Co was named Seafood New Zealand Water Champion for its Pure Pāua. The judges’ feedback was glowing: “The real deal, a substantial authentic mouthful.”
Announcing this year’s Champions, Head Judge Lauraine Jacobs said she was “delighted to see both new and old companies and growers recognised as Champions. Consistency is paramount in any product and our winners – for the most part – are from a group that continue to display passion and pride in production, while carefully ensuring their practices never infringe on the sustainability of our land for future generations.” She also noted, “2022 had been the most exciting year for the Awards to date. Each year has seen not only growth in the number of entries, but the quality of food continues to rise in every category.”
In another first, this year’s Giesen Paddock Champion was awarded jointly to Middlehurst Delivered, Lamb Short Ribs and Bostock Brothers, Organic Free Range Marinated Butterfly Chicken.
The judges thought Middlehurst Delivered, Lamb Short Ribs were ‘exceptional’, offering ‘melt in the mouth, pure meat.’ Sisters Sophie and Lucy Macdonald founded the business in 2020 to deliver 100% grass-fed, antibiotic and hormone-free Merino lamb from their parents’ farm Middlehurst Station in Marlborough’s Awatere Valley directly to consumers.
The 2022 Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards saw the return of 2020 Supreme Champions, Bostock Brothers Organic Free Range Chicken. This year they received two awards – joint winners of Giesen Paddock Champion and Sustainability Champion. The sustainability judges said Bostock Brothers had an “impressive circular story of the food supply chain and developments in renewable energy, mixed land use and waste.” Hawke’s Bay brothers Ben and George Bostock pride themselves on letting their chickens grow naturally, feeding them home-grown organic maize and giving them longer, happier lives. Bostock’s chicken is free of chemicals and antibiotics and when it comes to processing their product does not receive chlorine baths.
Hawke’s Bay is also home to Emerson’s Dairy Champion – Nieuwenhuis Farmstead Cheese, Marinated Cloud, Fresh Goat Cheese in Oil. Nieuwenhuis Farmstead Cheese have been making and selling their delicious goat cheese from their Te Hauke farm since 2018. The judges called the cheese ‘perfection’ saying it was “an impeccable product with beautiful flavour balance… subtle herbs in the infused oil complement the flavours the goat’s cheese beautifully.”
Farro Earth Champion was J.Friend & Co, Frame Uncut Raw Comb Honey. Presented for sale as its harvested from the wild in a wooden frame, the judges said: “Beautiful, gooey, crystal clear, floral. Fantastic presentation. An excellent product which we can’t fault.” The sustainability judges noted J.Friend & Co showed a “Very impressive environmental commitment.”
Another return winner is Label & Litho Drink Champion – Hill Road Orange Juice. Gisborne’s Hill Road were the inaugural Drink Champion in 2018. Since then they have grown their business, establishing an online store and growing and selling finger limes (which were also awarded a Gold Medal). Recognising the quality of their pure orange juice the judges said: “Sharp clean flavour, juicy, vibrant. Excellent.”
The FMCG Business New Product Champion this year is Nut Brothers, Peanut Butter Probiotic Cranberry. Founded by three nut butter-loving mates over a beer in 2014, Nut Brothers now has a diverse range of nut butters with Peanut Butter Probiotic Cranberry being its new addition. The judges said: “Great peanut flavour and crunchy texture. Fruit element marries nicely with the crunch, adding softness and a touch of sweetness.”
Awards newcomer, Robbies – a preserve maker from Gore – was awarded Free-From Champion for its Robbies Artisan Collection, Noir Gärlik, Black Garlic Sauce, Gluten Free.
Akaroa Salmon received the NZ Life & Leisure Spirit of New Zealand Award – an accolade celebrating the pioneering and innovative spirit of Kiwi producers. Giving the award, NZ Life & Leisure editorial director Kate Coughlan explained that since Akaroa Salmon was established in the 1980s by father and son Tom and Duncan Bates they have had to forge their own path. As one of the first King Salmon producers in New Zealand, the team had to figure out everything from scratch, including building the first cages and platforms themselves and hauling them to Lucas Bay on a barge. Over the years the Bates shaped the business with a strong farming philosophy, emphasising integrity and environmental care. Akaroa Salmon Manuka Hot Smoked Fillet was also recognised with a Gold Medal with the judges commenting that it was a great looking fillet with a ‘subtle smoked flavour’.
This year’s Emerging Business Champion, Opito Bay Salt Co hails from Coromandel. Its salt is a natural combination of sunshine, seawater and patience. They were awarded five medals; including two Gold Medals for Opito Bay Salt Co, Natural Sea Salt and Opito Bay Salt Co, Rosemary Sea Salt.
Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards organisers, Kathie Bartley and Nicola McConnell added a new award, recognising the outstanding quality of this year’s fresh produce. Wellsford’s Salty River Farm is the inaugural Outstanding Fresh Produce winner for its Lettuce Baby Leaf & Edible Flower Mix. The judges noted the butterhead lettuce was “beautifully sweet and nutty and the flowers, lovely.”
The final two awards were chosen by popular public vote; Coast Kiwis’ Favourite Food Producer was Matangi Angus Beef. As well as the Kiwis’ Favourite, Matangi Angus Beef won a Gold Medal for its Matangi Bone in Ribeye Tomahawk Steak. Coast Kiwis’ Favourite Farmers’ Market was Otago Farmers Market, a perennial favourite with market shoppers – it’s the third time the Market has won this award! The Saturday morning market held at the Dunedin Railway Station attracts up to 65 stall holders each week.
Look out for winning products wearing Champion, Gold, Silver and Bronze Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards medals – a promise of produce made in New Zealand, which tastes outstanding!
2022 OUSTANDING NZ FOOD PRODUCER AWARDS CHAMPIONS & AWARD WINNERS
Chatham Island Food Co, Pure Pāua
– Seafood New Zealand Water Champion; Chatham Island Food Co, Pure Pāua
– Giesen Paddock Champion (joint award); Middlehurst Delivered, Lamb Short Ribs and Bostock Brothers Organic Free Range Chicken, Marinated Butterfly Chicken
– Emerson’s Dairy Champion; Nieuwenhuis Farmstead Cheese, Marinated Cloud, Fresh Goat Cheese in Oil
– Farro Earth Champion; J.Friend & Co, Frame Uncut Raw Comb Honey
– Label & Litho Drink Champion; Hill Road Orchard, Hill Road Orange Juice
– New Zealand Life & Leisure, Spirit of New Zealand; Akaroa Salmon
– Sustainability Champion; Bostock Brothers
– Emerging Business; Opito Bay Salt Co.
– Outstanding Free-From Product; Robbies Artisan Collection, Noir Gärlik, Black Garlic Sauce, Gluten Free
– FMCG Business Outstanding New Product; Nut Brothers, Peanut Butter Probiotic Cranberry
– Outstanding Fresh Produce; Salty River Farm, Lettuce Baby Leaf & Edible Flower Mix
Coast Kiwis’ Favourites (Public Vote)
– Kiwis’ Favourite Food Producer; Matangi Angus Beef
– Kiwis’ Favourite Farmers’ Market; Otago Farmers Market