Producers from Raglan to Wanaka were among the Champions in this year’s Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards, with Wairarapa’s Homegrown Farm Fresh Meats named Supreme Champion 2021.
It’s the second year in a row that the Giesen Paddock Champion was also named Supreme Champion and the second time Homegrown Farm Fresh Meats has been named Paddock Champion, after winning for their Gourmet Lamb Pack in 2018.
Homegrown Farm Fresh Meats Mixed Box – Beef & Lamb is the work of couple Dion and Ali Kilmister, who run 1500 head of cattle and 15,000 sheep on three farms spread over 250 km in the lower North Island. As well as farming, in September 2019 they became retailers establishing Homegrown Butchery, Deli and Pantry, a bricks and mortar butcher’s shop, deli and pantry in Masterton which also has as an online store.
Head Judge Lauraine Jacobs said Homegrown Farm Fresh Meats’ mixed box of beef and lamb was an absolute standout. “Every single cut of meat in that box was incredibly flavourful and tasty, a testament to good farming practices and the natural New Zealand grass-fed lamb and beef that is the envy of farming countries around the world.”
A second Wairarapa business was also named a Champion, with Tora Collective named Seafood New Zealand Water Champion for its fresh pāua. Commercial fisher Troy Bramley and his partner, marketer Claire Edwards say the realisation the best seafood from NZ waters wasn’t destined for Aotearoa prompted them to set up Tora Collective. They fish sustainably off the southern Wairarapa coast with the aim of supplying ‘kaimoana fresh as, straight from the ocean’. The judging panel believed they had achieved their mission with one judge noting, “It’s quality pāua that can be sliced and cooked just like that! It’s an awesome product.”
Tora Collective was also recognised with the NZ Life & Leisure Spirit of New Zealand Award. Giving the award, NZ Life & Leisure editor Kate Coughlan explained that Tora Collective’s commitment to protecting an indigenous resource exemplifies the Kiwi spirit. As well as fishing sustainability, their commitment to the environment extends to their packaging which is recyclable or compostable. They use seaweed to stop live seafood from moving in transit and fill robust bull kelp with water then freeze it, using it as a natural ice pack.
Farro Earth Champion is Augustine’s of Central for its Black Doris Plums in Pinot Noir Syrup. The champion title accompanies this year’s pair of gold medals for Augustine’s of Central Black Doris Plums in Pinot Noir Syrup and Augustine’s of Central Apricot & Date Chutney.
Another South Island business was recognised with Emerson’s Dairy Champion awarded to ViaVio for their Mascarpone. Nelson’s ViaVio is named after a combination of its founders’ names; Flavia Spena and Flavio Donati, both originally from Rome. Made traditionally – by hand-pouring milk into a cheesecloth-lined colander and leaving it to slowly strain – ViaVio mascarpone impressed the judges with its creamy texture and rich buttery flavour. ViaVio also won gold medals for their pecorino and yoghurt plus silver medals for ricotta and stracchino.
The FMCG Business Outstanding New Product Award went to Loaf Salted Caramel Brownie Balls. From their Ellerslie bakery, Loaf craft a range of bakery products including, since last October, Loaf Salted Caramel Brownie Balls.
The judges said the balls were “rich, moreish, smooth, provocative’ and noted that they ‘would be amazing with a coffee”.
Label & Litho Drink Champion; Raglan Food Co, Natural Coconut Kefir Drinking Yoghurt is also from a producer who has previously been recognised in the awards. Raglan Food Co was 2020 Outstanding Sustainability Champion. This year it was Raglan Food Co’s new Natural Coconut Kefir Drinking Yoghurt which was the top drink. Raglan Food Co’s Apple & Ginger Kefir Drinking Yoghurt also won a gold medal with silver medals awarded to two other new drinking yoghurts in their range.
Pathways Hamlin Road Farm Range received the Outstanding Sustainability Award. Every entrant in the Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards is judged for its sustainability with these marks included in the final total for each entry. This year’s sustainability judging trio – Emily King, Fiona Stephenson and Holly Leach said Pathways Hamlin Road Farm “demonstrates how to run a well-functioning organic urban farm along with the power of how growing and gardening can help people”. Organic urban farm Hamlin Road Farm supplies fresh produce and seedlings to its South Auckland community. However, it’s more than a farm, it grows produce and people. The farm employs and trains people from Counties Manukau recovering from addiction and mental health challenges, giving them vocational training, work experience and support to help them find work and confidence.
Little ‘Lato, Mango Lassi Dairy-Free Gelato was awarded Free-From Champion. Since being founded by Chief Gelato Maker Hannah Wood in late 2017, the bespoke gelato maker has become known for its abundance of dairy-free options. Little ‘Lato aims to add a little joy into every customer’s day and they certainly did on judging day, with one of the judges saying “So bloody nice! Totally, utterly, delicious!”
In recognition of the challenges facing business over the past 18 months and the innovation prompted by Covid, this year’s new business recognition has become known as the Covid Outstanding New Business; Bake ‘n Break for their Cheese Burger Slider Bake. Bake ‘n Break was born during a Zoom strategy meeting during the first week of level four lockdown in March 2020. Like many businesses, Bake ‘n Break’s parent company, The Cater Station needed to diversify as its catering business wasn’t trading. Just over a year later their cheese sliders for an easy home dinner are finding favour – the judges thought it was a “cool concept…great family food”.
The final two awards were chosen by popular public vote; Coast People’s Choice Outstanding Farmers’ Market was Matakana Village Farmers’ Market. The zero-waste market every Saturday celebrates the Matakana region’s natural bounty and creative, entrepreneurial spirit. Kiwis chose Oliff Farm Premium Pasture Eggs as Coast People’s Choice Outstanding Food Producer. Deonne and Dean Olliff have revived the age-old practise of pasture raising chooks on their Silverdale property. Oliff also wowed the judging panel, receiving a gold medal for their Premium Pasture Eggs.
The Awards involved 30 judges who assessed a record 300 plus food and drink entries from 126 producers in April.
Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards Co-Director, Kathie Bartley said it was pleasing to see so many alumni from previous awards receiving accolades. “It was wonderful to see winners from the earlier awards recognised again. It’s proof that the New Zealand food industry is continually innovating and offers consistent quality.”
Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards Co-Director, Nicola McConnell said “based on this year’s results, Wairarapa is the region to watch! Homegrown Farm Fresh Meats and Tora Collective both hail from this region and between them they collected four of this year’s top Awards.”
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!