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With the 2014 Supreme Award winners from Sealord Group (from left to right): Steve Maharey, Matt Mays, Melissa Semmens, Joel Bourke, Gavin Kouwenhoven (Sealord Group), Tim Groser.


Opinion: Food industry success vital to New Zealand's future

The 2014 NZ Food Awards Gala Dinner

By Steve Maharey

Food is an integral part of life, and New Zealand has carefully cultivated a global reputation for food quality and safety. The rise in popularity of so many cooking shows both here and overseas indicates that people are keen to learn about the value of excellent products to make memorable food. This is a good thing.

The food industry runs the gamut from farm gate to plate, with investment in manufacturing, product development, sustainability programmes and food safety regimes to ensure the very best of products are available to customers globally and domestically.

We are the largest exporter in the world of dairy products and lamb, and a major exporter of beef, apples, kiwifruit, seafood and wine. But we are more than just what comes from the soil.

Over the past 50 years Massey University has developed a world-leading food technology programme, matching science with food to create innovative products that fulfil a need. With the global population aging, the value of this programme will continue to show itself as smart foods and "neutraceuticals" that deliver food in new, more palatable, ways for the consumer.

Given the speed at which the world is changing, and the way that technology is playing a greater role in everyday life, the food industry may seem quaint by comparison, but in reality these industries are interdependent. The innovation needed by the food industry can be supported by great technology – and in this way we build on our previous successes as we identify key markets to grow New Zealand’s reputation in the agrifood and technology space.

But we’re not so good a celebrating that success; standing up and showing just why our products are innovative. Sometimes it could be something as simple as clever packaging – like the Hawke’s Bay company Rockit Apples, which created demand for miniature apples packaged in a tube like tennis balls, and sold them at Wimbledon. Rockit Apples went on to win the KPMG Food Enterprise Innovation Award at the 2010 New Zealand Food Awards and recently opened a multi-millon dollar state-of-the-art packaging facility in Havelock North, as part of a  $17 million dollar investment in the region.

Since the inception of the New Zealand Food Awards in 1987, Massey University has led the charge celebrating New Zealand’s biggest export industry and we are proud to do so. Value-added premium quality products are where New Zealand’s future lies and these are the premium awards for the food industry, with entrants ranging from small start-up artisan producers to some of our largest manufacturers.

Entrants' products and processes are subjected to a rigorous judging process by industry professionals for each category. They are offered valuable feedback as well as additional exposure to the strategic partner group who work together to bring their expertise to the table, focused on improving the industry. In some cases, it is also a chance for regional producers to highlight the great work being done in and around their base.

Entries for the 2015 New Zealand Food Awards close on July 10. Now is the time for companies to stand up, show how far they have come and celebrate success. For more information, visit the NZ Food Awards website

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