Marlborough’s Pinoli Premium Pine Nuts has been recognized for its flavour-filled nuts and its risky journey to become the Southern Hemisphere’s only pine nut producer – being named Supreme Champion at the Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards 2023.
Investing in the Mediterranean pine (Pinus pinea) is a long game; its first crop is only harvestable after eight to 10 years, so it was a leap of faith for Pinoli Premium Pine Nuts founders Andy and Barb Wiltshire and general manager, Lee Paterson.
Andy Wiltshire said failure was never an option, and since the first planting in 1998, the company has planted 500,000 trees on 540 hectares in Marlborough’s Wairau Valley. Pinoli pine nuts are sold to food lovers throughout New Zealand and Australia and recently started exporting to Europe.
Head Judge Lauraine Jacobs said; “the judges were excited by the fresh taste of these high quality nuts and unanimous in their acclaim for these sweet little orbs of good taste. This outstanding product involves intensive work and is a fine example of careful monitoring throughout growing, harvesting, processing and packaging to bring a consistently brilliant product to market. Pinoli Premium Pine Nuts are an excellent local food that soars above any comparable import.”
In addition to being named Supreme Champion 2023, Pinoli Premium Pine Nuts was named Farro Earth Champion. The judges’ feedback was outstanding; “Excellent, amazing flavor and aroma and a nice little sweetness at the end. An awesome product all round. The favorite product we tasted all day!”
Reflecting on all 2023 Champions, Lauraine Jacobs noted; “It was also very satisfying to witness the high level of praise for locally produced meat. By far the largest group of Gold Medal winners was in the Paddock category and it was almost an impossible task for the team to separate so many outstanding meats to name the Champion of this category, Moreish Organic Butchery. The strength of this field is an affirmation of the fine work our Kiwi farmers are doing.”
Emerson’s Paddock Champion Moreish Organic Butchery received the accolade for its Organic Scotch Fillet and Pure Organic Beef Burger Patties; both of which received Gold Medals.
One of a handful of returning winners, this year’s Seafood New Zealand Champion is Tora Collective Crayfish. At the tasting assessment the judges noted the appearance of Tora Collective’s wild-caught crayfish was as good as its flavour; “Beautifully sweet flesh.”
When commercial fisher Troy Bramley and his partner, marketer Claire Edwards realized the best kaimoana left our shores they established Tora Collective. They fish sustainability from the southern Wairarapa coast to supply ‘kaimoana fresh as, straight from the ocean’.
This year the Awards saw the return of multi-year winner; Whitestone Cheese Co. Whitestone Oamaru Blue, which was named the 2023 Dairy Champion. The iconic North Otago cheesemaker Whitestone was awarded Dairy Champion in the inaugural 2017 Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards, named NZ Life & Leisure Spirit of New Zealand winner and Coast People’s Choice Outstanding NZ Food Producer in 2019 and has awarded 27 medals over seven years. At this year’s tasting, judges struggled to set aside the Whitestone Oamaru Blue saying “Delicious, great blue cheese. True flavour, well balanced with buttery unctuous texture!”
Pete’s Natural Currant Crush was given the accolade of Label & Litho Drink Champion with the judges saying, “Sweet black currant and balanced acidity. Great color, subtle hop notes. A very enjoyable drink!”. Tasman juicers Pete and Marleen Suy put sustainability at the heart of their business, using 30 to 50% less sugar, fresh spray-free fruit, undertaking production in a solar-powered Motueka factory, using paper labels and recycled glass bottles.
Another returning Champion is Auckland boutique gelato maker; Little ‘Lato received the inaugural Free-From Champion for Little ‘Lato Mango Lassi in 2021 and received the Award again in 2023. This year’s award was received along with two Gold Medals, a Silver Medal and a Bronze Medal with the judges raving about the Mango Lassi saying “Yum we love it, blown away! Beautiful mango flavour. Great balance, not too sweet. Fab texture. Nailed it!”
Raglan Food Co is also a returning Champion and were awarded the Marvelous Marketing Outstanding Sustainability Award; the second time they have received this accolade. Sustainability judges Emily King and Fiona Stephenson said “Raglan Food Co continues to raise the bar. It’s a leader in its sector and a shining light for others to follow. What stands out is its continuous innovation and commitment to community.
Sustainability has been integrated into the way the business operates from the start. It is certified as a B Corp and Toitu Climate Positive. Particularly impressive are its social initiatives, which include a staff profit share program, a staff health and wellbeing fund, and a local community fund. Raglan Food Co. has an ongoing focus on innovation, which includes products as well as other initiatives, such as wastewater treatment. It is a truly impressive company that started small with organic coconut yogurt, and is now transforming the dairy-free sector.”
FMCG Business New Product Champion
The FMCG Business New Product Champion is award newcomer, Big Glory Bay, Fresh New Zealand King Salmon Portions. Sanford-owned, Rakiura/Stewart Island salmon farm Big Glory Bay is one of the world’s most remote aquaculture farms. The cool water temperature means the growth of its Big Glory Bay New Zealand King Salmon is slow, giving it time to develop a rich, distinctive flavour. The judges noted the salmon was “Very clean, with sweet flavor and fine texture and delicious.”
Augustines of Central, Blackcurrants in Cassis is Marvelous Marketing Outstanding New Product – Boutique. No stranger to the winner’s podium, they were Farro Earth Champion in 2021 for Augustine’s of Central Black Doris Plums in Pinot Noir Syrup. Owned by Dunedin chef Gus Hayden, Augustines of Central revives the age-old art of preserving, by giving Central Otago’s summer bounty a modern twist. Of this year’s Blackcurrants in Cassis, the judges said ‘Amazing flavour.’
Premium Game received the NZ Life & Leisure Spirit of New Zealand Award – an accolade recognizing the spirit of innovation required by pioneering producers. Presenting this special award, NZ Life & Leisure Editorial Director Kate Coughlan said Premium Game was a great example of a sustainable business.
“We were struck by the company’s innovative approach to business: it utilizes wild game as quality food. These pest populations such as rabbit, venison, wild pork and tahr are introduced species and they pose a great danger to our fragile ecosystems. Premium Game works with skilled hunters and butchers to prepare the meat for the market, and in a sustainable way that allows consumers to feel good about enjoying meat and in so doing help control pests. Everybody wins, and most importantly, the environment.”
This year’s Emerging Business Champion, Links Quality Meats, hails from Dunedin. Since the butchery in Dunedin’s CBD opened last year, it has developed a reputation with locals for quality cuts and for its sausages of which they rotate 50 recipes which they make in store. Judges tasted Links Organwurst and Tube Burger sausages, awarding both Gold Medals. Of the Organwurst Sausage the judges said “Innovative and unique. ‘Perfectly seasoned. Everyone would have a crack at this sausage, friendly. Great grind. Judges embracing this product.’
The final two awards were chosen by popular public vote; Coast Kiwis’ Favorite Food Producer was Lindsay Farm Dairy. The Hawke’s Bay certified BioGro organic farm sells all of their milk directly to consumers who showed their appreciation by voting them number one. They also won a Silver Medal for their A2 Organic Pasteurized Milk. For the first time the Kiwis’ Favorite Farmers’ Market was awarded to joint winners; Clevedon Village Farmers’ Market and Otago Farmers Market.
2023 marks the seventh year of the Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards. Judging was held at Homeland in late February, where judges tasted and assessed more than 290 locally harvested, grown and made food and drink products. Of the food 206 were recognized with medals of which 98 were Gold; 60 were Silver and a further 48 were Bronze.
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!
2023 OUSTANDING NZ FOOD PRODUCER AWARDS CHAMPIONS & AWARD WINNERS
Supreme Champion and Farro Earth Champion
o Pinoli Premium Pine Nuts
o Seafood New Zealand Water Champion; Tora Collective Crayfish
o Emerson’s Paddock Champion: Moreish Organic Scotch Fillets and Moreish Pure Organic Beef Burger Patties
o Dairy Champion; Whitestone Oamaru Blue
o Label & Litho Drink Champion; Pete’s Natural Currant Crush
o Free-From Champion; Little’ Lato Mango Lassi
o New Zealand Life & Leisure, Spirit of New Zealand; Premium Games
o Marvelous Marketing Outstanding Sustainability Award; Raglan Food Co
o Marvelous Marketing Emerging Business; Links Quality Meats
o FMCG Business Outstanding New Products; Big Glory Bay, Fresh New Zealand King Salmon Portions
o Marvelous Marketing Outstanding New Product – Boutique; Augustines of Central, Blackcurrants in Cassis
Coast Kiwis’ Favorites (Public Vote)
o Kiwis’ Favorite Food Producer; Lindsay Farm Dairy
o Kiwis’ Favorite Farmers’ Market; Joint Winners; Clevedon Village Farmers’ Market & Otago Farmers Market
For more information visit www.outstandingfoodproducer.co.nz