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Doors open for Coromandel food producers thanks to Food Show 2019

16 September 2019

Artisan cheese-maker Mercury Bay Creamery is due to open a boutique store at Auckland’s busy Eastridge Shopping Centre in Mission Bay, selling its organic cheeses and raw milk, which come fresh from the farmgate at Whitianga.

The exciting move is thanks largely to being involved with the Coromandel Food Collective at the Auckland Food Show.

Shoppers will be able to select from the creamery's range of camembert, brie, merlots, manchegos, feta and butter kase cheeses, while also taking home a taste of the Coromandel from other complementary home-grown food products such as honey and vinaigrettes, which Mercury Bay Creamery plans to stock alongside its dairy goods in-store.

Mercury Bay cheeses are already served up at the high-end Auckland restaurant One Tree Grill as well as the Park Hyatt Auckland hotel and another national hotel and convention centre, with the restaurant market now providing two-thirds of its revenue - not bad for a small business that launched in early 2018.

Owner and cheesemaker Carl Storey (pictured above) says these are all doors that opened after attending last year’s Auckland Food Show as part of the Coromandel Food Collective - a network of niche local food producers.

Mercury Bay Creamy returned to the Food Show for a second year in July, alongside four other local food producers. The project is a Council-funded initiative, through our economic development arm, with producers contributing to be part of the stand. It's one of the ways our Council can help promote and support local, homegrown businesses and market the Coromandel as a food destination.

“The Coromandel Food Collective shows people we’re not just bush and a few nice beaches here on the Coromandel; there is a lot more going on,” Carl says.

Mercury Bay Creamery cheeses were picked up by another three new restaurants at this year's show, which means business is really hotting up. There are plans afoot for a retail presence in central Whitianga and to double the size of the factory on Tairua-Whitianga Rd – a direct result of its restaurant accounts. With production volumes up, the business is looking to hire more staff.

“We wouldn’t have expanded without those restaurants, which we wouldn’t have picked up without the Food Show,” Carl says.

Dishing up a taste of the Coromandel

Photo: Kyle Dunkle and the team from Uncle Dunkles Chilli at the Auckland Food Show 20

Attracting close to 30,000 people, the Auckland Food Show is one of the largest food shows in New Zealand and our Council co-funds businesses to attend as part of the Coromandel Food Collective exhibition space.

This year we hosted what was largely an all-new new set of exhibitors, who returned home buzzing from the sales, networking opportunities and from discovering new markets for their food.

Plant-based, whole food maker Corokai used the show as the launch pad for its organic, gluten-free bread mix. The freshly-baked herb and seeded loaves received keen interest from foodies and from commercial buyers, impressing celebrity chef Simon Gault, who endorsed the bread at his cooking theatre demonstration over the weekend.

“It’s a great opportunity to get a feel for the market and to feel that we’re supported and to meet other businesses and make connections,” says bread maker Guy Macindoe.

Kuaotunu-based Uncle Dunkles Chilli was only six-months old when owner Kyle Dunkle showcased his wood-fired chilli sauces at the show.

“For a young business to be invited by the Council to take part in the Coromandel Food Collective stand is amazing,” Kyle says. “The Coromandel Food Collective stand is really cool to be a part of.”

Morag Standbrook, from Thames-based Savour & Spice said she was grateful for the Council’s support to get to the show with her range of mustards, spices and teas.

“Little businesses like us find it challenging financially to be at an event like this otherwise,” Morag says.

Over the course of the show she made new wholesale and export contacts, and enjoyed networking and sharing her knowledge of manufacturing with fellow producers on the stand.

“I think building the network of small, artisanal food producers here on the Coromandel is important. The biggest hurdle for any new business is knowledge. We can help with that and pass on our experience,” Morag says.

Honey Shed Tairua enjoyed strong interest in its honey, candles and bees wax products.  Owner Molly Hayward said she made connections with wholesalers as well as boosting the store’s social media following.

“We received so many comments that people love the Coromandel stall,” Molly says.

Food Show events company Northport Events reports 29,107 people attended this year’s show, with an average spend of $193 each. The main reason people visit the show is to see new products and services and to look for ideas and inspiration.

“Each year we have strong demand to join the Coromandel Food Collective at the Food Show, and there were many more exciting food producers that would have represented the Coromandel with gusto,” says our Council’s communications and economic development group manager Laurna White.

“The fact we can take what’s virtually a whole new group of exhibitors, and for them to have such a productive show, shows the depth of our artisan food industry,” Laurna says.

“Local and homegrown food is an important part of the Coromandel economy, with mussel farms, organic growers and producers among those helping to establish our district as the pantry of artisan and locally-grown food products,” Laurna says.

“Increasingly, as people learn about the great, home-grown, fresh artisan products produced right here, it’s becoming another strong reason for people to visit the Coromandel,” she says.

Find out more about the Coromandel Food Collective and the five exhibitors that joined us for Food Show 2019 here.  

A 'homegrown in the Coromandel' food trail guide can be found inside The Coromandel Visitor Guide, which you can collect from an i-SITE visitor centre or view online.