Innovation is something that comes naturally to Ron and Andrew Parkin of Genoese Food in Levin.

What began sometime in the last century as an asparagus operation has become an award-winning pesto brand, known for its emphasis on health and wellbeing. Their products, without preservatives, additives and dairy and allergy free, have now earned them a place among the finalists in this year's NZ Food Awards for the special award for business innovation.

In the 1980s as asparagus growers the Parkins searched for alternative crops to grow during their off-season, since the asparagus season is fairly short, running from September until December.

Genoese Pesto - washing the basil.
Genoese Pesto - washing the basil.

They experimented trying to extend the growing season and then in the early 1990s leased 16ha of land in Fiji to grow them, as well as herbs and vegetables for the local market. A surplus of basil that grew really well outside Nadi brought up the question what to do with all that greenery.

In 1993 Ron Parkin and Sean Kerins formed Genoese Foods and started making traditional pesto in Levin.

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