Producers from Southland to Northland were among the Champions in this year’s Outstanding NZ Food Producer 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. It’s isolation – 800 kms 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.”
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 home to a second champion – 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 content 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 tasting judges said: Beautiful, gooey, crystal clear, floral. Fantastic presentation. An excellent product which we can’t fault.” While 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.’
FMCG Business New Product Champion 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, Robbie’s a preserve maker from Gore was awarded Free-From Champion for its Robbies Artisan Collection, Noir Gärlik, Black Garlic Sauce, Gluten Free. The judges said ‘Wow! A great finishing sauce. So many ways it could be used to add depth and flavour’. Robbies – was established by Josie Robinson when she was hankering for the goodness of homemade produce bringing up her children.
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; 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; Otago Farmers Market is 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.
Kathie and Nicola thanked the highly talented team of food professionals who gave their time and taste buds to judge the Awards. This year’s Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards judging panel was; Sam Borgfeldt (drinks consultant) Tracy Berno (Associate Professor in Culinary Arts at AUT University); Gemma Bowman (Farro chilled category manager); Connie Clarkson (restaurateur, food writer and head of business at Homeland); BJ Sebastian (Executive Chef Mudbrick Restaurant); Lucy Corry (food writer and award-winning cook book author); Kimberley Dixon (editor of Hospitality Business); Ginny Grant; (food writer and food judge) Lynda Hallinan (journalist and broadcaster); Des Harris (restaurant consultant); John Kelleher (AUT programme leader, Diploma in Culinary Arts and Diploma in Patisserie); Emily King (director of Spira, sustainability judge); Anna King Shahab (food writer and food judge); Mat Mclean (executive chef and owner of Palate); Jackie Matthews (food judge); Kathy Paterson (cook book author and food writer); Jonathon Robertson (Farro grocery category manager); Fiona Smith (food writer and food judge); Fiona Stephenson (Sustainable Business Network, sustainability judge); Kerry Tyack (experienced food judge), Lorna Subritzky (Coast daytime host and foodie) and Maggie Wicks (Food Editor for NZME’s Be Well and eatwell.co.nz).
Look out for winning products wearing Champion, Gold, Silver and Bronze Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards medals – a promise of outstanding produce made in New Zealand.