A Far North company that specialises in fermentation has been awarded this year's Top Energy $30,000 Business Development Fund.
K4 Cultured Foods, from the Bay of Islands, produces premium-quality, live-probiotic ferments, including green tea kombucha, cultured turmeric and a variety of live ferments.
Top Energy judges say they went with their gut when selecting this year's winner.
Founder of the Haruru Falls company Kaye van der Straten, who has a number of autoimmune diseases, had a strong incentive to find a diet that would promote healthy gut bacteria and boost her immune system. She developed a range of delicious fermented goods that helped manage her conditions into remission and which set the culture for a successful local business to flourish.
Described as a "scientist by training and a foodie by inclination", van der Straten said the company has a clear vision "to help people feel good … from the inside out".
Launched in 2016 with her partner Freddy Loov, the family-owned and operated businesses has a crew passionate about producing high-quality, delicious probiotic food and beverages. Recipe and flavour development are aided by chef Linz Hart-MacDiarmid, who acts as a mentor and inspirer.
Van der Straten has drawn on her scientific knowledge and methods tweaked from Champagne and other industries to devise a kombucha brewing technique that is unique to K4.
"No other company brews this way," she said. "K4 brews are 100 per cent authentic ferments with no preservatives, additives or shortcuts to the fermentation process".
From the outset K4 has demonstrated a vision for growth and its products are sold in over 70 wholesale stockists across the North Island, two local market stalls, an online retail store delivering across the North Island, and the K4 Brewery door which is open for tasting and door sales in the Bay of Islands. Recognition has also been gained of all three of the K4 Kombucha Favours as finalists in the 2018 Inspire + NZ Artisan Awards.
The priority now is to increase the number of Northland employees from a part-time role occupied by Master of Fermentation - Pete Lindgren-Streicher, to 3.5 full-time staff by 2019.
They will also buy bottling plant machinery locally and complete the K4 Brewery building refit work with a Kerikeri-based construction company. Marketing will also place the K4 Brewery as a Northland Food & Beverage tourism destination with increased door sales.
Top Energy chief executive Russell Shaw is amazed every year by the calibre and commitment of local businesses and entrepreneurs to maximise the talent and potential of the Far North.