We recently got a special invitation to the New Zealand Food Connection to have a gander at what the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise had to offer. And just because I have a very soft spot for all things Aotearoa (and a chance to have really good wine and lamb), we decided to check it out.
I found the NZ Food Connection to be quite refreshing. With special cooking demonstrations by Kiwi Executive Chef Jamie Hogg-Wharekawa (specially flown in from Bali to show all of us how luscious and succulent NZ lamb can be), wholesome and familiar brands from all over the land of the long white cloud showcasing many different quality samples of wine, dairy products, apples and drinks, it certainly was quite an engaging afternoon with quite a few products on display.
Many thanks to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise for organizing and inviting us, and for the wonderful showing from all of the businesses. Now, on to the good stuff.
New Zealand is known for their rich, fertile lands and the consistent high quality of their produce due to stringent quality control and extensive research in areas such as ecology, agriculture, viticulture and farming. They are world leaders in conservation and sustainable produce as well, with many companies in particular emphasising organic, natural, sustainable practices in order to produce healthier, better quality products. Their exports are something that they take exceptional pride in, and it shows.
We started off with some great tasting drinks made by SHOTT beverages, a leading concentrate and syrup company based out of Wellington, the capital. They have a wide range of flavoured syrups which include the regular fruit offerings of grenadine, pineapple and lime to more eccentric tastes, such as orange & lemongrass, lemon, ginger & honey and one of my favourites, spiced berry.
They made us mojitos and a passionfruit cocktail to display the versatility and robustness of the syrups in today’s demanding cocktail scene. One of the hallmarks of the brand is their attention to ensuring all-natural flavours as close as possible to the real thing in each of their offerings so you get a natural, fresh tasting product every time.
Next up was a very unique innovation from the Hawkes Bay: Rockit Apples.
These were cute, bite-sized miniature red apples perfect as snacks which come pre-packaged in 3’s or 5’s. On sampling, they were very sweet and juicy, with mouthfuls of flavour in each bite, despite the size.
Rockit is positioning itself as a competitor to snack foods focussing on providing a healthier alternative for those with a busier lifestyle or in sports. According to the brand’s research, there are no other miniature apples on the market currently, so taking advantage of the distinctive climate and locale of the Hawkes Bay, Rockit has produced a truly distinctive entrant in the snack food business.
Following Rockit was a brand I’ve grown very familiar with because of their wholesome and unassuming yet humble approach to juice: The Better Drinks Company.
Massively popular down south, their products advertise honest, all natural juice never from concentrate and made as pure as possible, in a variety of flavours. They’ve also been experimenting with fizzies which really caught my eye. Organic Cola? They’ve done it. Real Ginger Beer? Got that too. With a range of products from all natural juice, sparkling fruit juice to mineral water, it’s hard to go wrong with these guys.
We were presented with their Charlie’s and Phoenix brands which are already huge favourites in their home markets of Australia and New Zealand, with exports currently to 20 countries around the world. The drinks were big on taste, Spirulina proving to be quite popular during sampling.
Another of NZ’s original and ingenious offerings was next in the form of Manukee Daily Wellness Drink.
As most of us already know, Manuka honey is good for you. Manukee is a drink made from Manuka with 10+UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) from the great lake of Taupo right in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island. Sourced from hives from Mount Ngaruhoe where bees travel as far as 5000 kilometres gathering nectar, the honey is then mixed in with all natural ingredients such as lemon, elderflower, pear and ginger to produce a well balanced, tasty, refreshing beverage meant to keep you at your best.
We were provided with lemon & elderflower as well as pear & ginger flavours, with more in the pipes. I quite liked the pear & ginger. It had a bit of a zing and spice to the honey notes.
Wines were next, with 4 labels presenting their best. Now, typically NZ produces world-renowned Sauv Blancs, but they also make great Rieslings and Pinot Noir and a whole range of others such as Gewurtztraminer, Gruner Veltliner and Pinot Gris.
The labels on display today were mostly from Marlborough, that famous wine region, but we also got to taste one from Nelson, a region perhaps a little less well known but with very reputable vineyards just a ways south of Marlborough.
The Waimea Estate brand is quite recognized and established, supplying a number of airlines and exporting to countries such as the UK and here. Their Riesling had a nice bouquet, very aromatic, and was pleasantly not as sweet as I’d thought it would be, with a nice hint of citrus and a touch of wood providing body and complexity for its age.
Other brands on display were Villa Maria wines, the Babich range, and Giesen, all from the Marlborough region. Pairing the Giesen Pinot Noir with some lamb worked a treat, rounding out the stronger flavours of the meat and introducing light and subtle hints on the palate.
Representative from local Singapore distributor The Straits Wine Company explains the wines they carry.
The Tatua brand of dairy products was up next and is NZ’s oldest independent group of dairy companies. They showcased the expertise of the NZ dairy industry with a range of different foodservice items such as cream cheeses, cooking creams and various others for discerning professionals and those who appreciate fine dairy.
Mostly used in desserts and pastry, Tatua can also be used to make ice-cream, sauces and some pastas as well as risotto. The company sources all of its milk from its own farms within a 10km radius, so the freshest milk can be speedily processed into their products while additionally providing traceability and quality control.
We were given some good old-fashioned Tiramisu to show off their Mascarpone utility. It was a lovely dessert, moist and fluffy and very tasty. Their Creme Anglaise we had on its own, and made me think about Bread and Butter pudding immediately on tasting.
The Pure South brand provided some very generous helpings of lamb. Under the Alliance group, a cooperative of NZ farmers formed 67 years ago and owned 100% by farmers themselves. They are the world’s largest distributer of lamb, and are a leading processer of beef and venison as well.
We were given samples of a rack of lamb showcasing the quality of the meat, and it was beautiful. Not too pungent, the lamb was nicely done being surprisingly juicy, tender and accompanied very well with some mint jelly on the side. I’m not a great fan of lamb, or mutton for that matter because of their often overpowering flavours, but this one was quite subtle and we really enjoyed it.
The final product display was from ANZCO which does frozen processed foods specifically for retail and food service sectors with the goal of time and space savings in mind. Their meals and products are designed and packaged to be readily prepared for consumption in minutes with quality guaranteed because of their production processes which ensure freshness and flavours are locked in prior to transportation and distribution.
They have many brands under their flag and are one of the largest exporters in NZ. In particular today they wanted to show Angel Bay’s Angus beef patties and the Nourish line’s slow-cooked lamb shanks which were both 100% NZ sourced and certified, with production all done in NZ itself.
The shanks were very, very tender as one would expect from slow-cooked lamb with meat almost falling off the bone. At first, I had no idea these were pre-packed and assumed they had been painstakingly slow-cooked just for this event and was very surprised to learn not only are they pre-cooked and then flown over, but that they took mere minutes to heat and serve.
Chef Jamie Hogg-Wharekawa, originally from Auckland and currently Executive Chef for the Double-Six hotel in Bali, was also invited down to demonstrate how to cook Frenched Rack of Lamb, with sautéed apples and a blackcurrent honey red wine sauce, using Rockit apples, SHOTT blackcurrent and honey fruit concentrate and Villa Maria Pinot Noir.
Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to try it since there were limited portions, but it looked and sounded amazing.
All in all, a rather informative and fulfilling afternoon which should give you an idea of the potential of New Zealand foods that you can possibly bring in, especially for the restaurant industry. Wholesome and satisfying, just like what New Zealand has to offer. Many thanks again to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise for organizing and inviting us for this amazing preview.