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Rural Insight: Opportunities lie in new food sectors.

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There is a food revolution spreading through provincial New Zealand as businesses founded on a supply of high quality protein and produce start to find their niche in the global food industry.

These innovative operators have often started from within their farm gate, turning a past time into a business, and with it proving there is more to the country’s food sector than simply milk and meat.

“These innovative operators have often started from within their farm gate, turning a past time into a business.”

This year’s Outstanding NZ Food Producer awards was a testimony to the many businesses that have made the step into a tough commercial food world, while retaining the values and quality that sparked their creator’s interest.

The record entries included 186 food products from 100 producers, many from across provincial New Zealand.

A recent report by research company Coriolis also endeavoured to look for the country’s “next wine industry”- a product that can become a significant export industry from almost nothing.

The report identified 20 product categories with the potential to deliver significant growth, and they bring some opportunities for rural and provincial entrepreneurs who may be seeking that next wine industry opportunity.

Fresh cheeses including mozzarella, chocolate, blueberries and avocadoes were all identified as good opportunities for future development.

“Fresh cheeses, chocolate, blueberries and avocadoes were all identified as good opportunities for future development.

The best opportunities included honey, pet food, salmon, cherries, muesli bars, chocolate and flavoured beverages. Collectively these markets are estimated to be worth at least $250 million a year.

Marton based food business The Whole Mix is an award winning business highlighting the potential of rural based food businesses to punch well above their weight.

The company claimed the FMCG Outstanding New Product Award for their range of vegetable noodles at the Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards.

Employing 30 staff The Whole Mix sources the vegetables for its noodle and salad range locally where possible, creating innovative, value added products with a focus on freshness and convenience.

Local Bayleys rural real estate agent Andrew Bonnor based in Feilding said businesses like Whole Mix highlighted a shift in investment that was happening through the horticultural industry.

“Down this part of the lower Rangitikei-Marton district we are seeing greater interest in vegetable and general horticultural production off land that has traditionally been devoted predominately to pastoral farming activities. On the broader lowland sand plains areas where there has been irrigation installed and running for a few years, this country offers some very good opportunities for alternative land uses,” he says.

The Clevedon Buffalo Company south of Auckland also captured judge’s palates and imaginations at the same awards to claim supreme champions with their marinated buffalo cheese. The product marks a big move from the company’s fresh mozzarella they have been manufacturing from their 150 head herd of Italian buffalos.

Buffalo company owners Helen and Richard Dorresteyn highlight the commitment and innovation that accompanies many small rural businesses that have an eye on the potential of local and global markets craving the fresh, genuine food products.

Their marinated mozzarella cheese adds a valuable longer life product to the company’s range which focuses on fresh made, fresh delivered mozzarella delivered as far as a pizza shop on Stewart Island.

While a novelty here in New Zealand, buffalo are common through Italy and Spain, and in recent years the Dorresteyns have sourced genetics from Italy using artificial breeding to lift the volume of their herd’s milk production.

The Dorresteyns had their start at what is often the cradle market for smaller scale farm based artisan producers, the local farmers market.

Helen said she was also particularly proud to see the Clevedon Farmers Market also claim the award for NZ’s most outstanding farmers market at the same ceremony this year. She helped instigated and run the market for many years after establishing it in 2005.

“It has really been the birth place of a number of food businesses that have grown from there.”

Pastoral producers picked up the top two places at this year’s awards, with the Ara Wines Paddock Champion award going to Wairarapa based Homegrown Farm Fresh Meats for their door delivered gourmet whole lamb box.

It was described by one of the judges as the “best lamb ever eaten”, standing apart for its colour and depth of flavour. The farms supplying the lamb run charollais-romney-texel cross sheep, sold in whole and half lamb boxes online.

“The opportunities for land use options and supplying fresh or processed products both locally and for export has never been greater,” says Andrew.

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