A food show floating down the Waikato River, a pop-up market in New York's Times Square, or corner dairies across the world laden with the Waikato's finest. These are just some of the ideas the Waikato Food Forum has cooked up to promote the region's best culinary creations.

On Tuesday afternoon, at Zealong Tea Estate in Gordonton, more than 100 people ranging from chefs, food producers, bloggers and business owners came together to brainstorm how the Waikato can shine as a leading food region.

The event was put together by Waikato Food Inc, established in 2013 as a not for profit member-based organisation with goals of promoting and growing food and hospitality businesses in the Waikato.

Speaking to the Waikato News Waikato Food Inc chairwoman Vicki Ravlich-Horan said the ideas that came out of the Food Forum were brilliant and could help propel the region to a positive future.


"We do another event called Feast Waikato at the start of the year, which involves a series of food events, and a lot of the ideas from today – such as a floating food barge – could be incorporated into that in the future," Ms Ravlich-Horan said.

She described the current state of food from the Waikato as the equivalent of a corner dairy; without it you would miss it, but you don't get excited about going there.

"Our biggest problem is that we are a commodity, we are farm stock. We just put our heads down and get on with it. We don't start with market companies, we just create the things first. It has created a bit of a perception problem both in and outside of the Waikato, people don't really know just quite what comes out of the region."

She said the Waikato should stop focusing on making items such as milk powder for baby formula, but turn the milk into award winning cheeses and butters and selling it on.

"We can only make so much out of what we are doing now, and the Waikato is probably one of the worst when it comes to that."

Ms Ravlich-Horan said the next step was to try and get investment for the region, saying there is a lack of it in the Waikato from agencies and the Government.

"We have been here for six years and we do not get one cent from anyone. The only way we exist is to grovel and get anything we can out of our members. The people here need to recognise that success comes from investment."

Waikato Chamber of Commerce chief executive Chris Simpson spoke to the forum saying New Zealand needed to focus on finding alternative ways to produce food as the population of the world grows.


"In the Waikato, we are the biggest producers of food, but how do we get the story out there and say why New Zealand is the best at this," he said. "Where we are and as the world grows in population, that is all opportunity to us."