South Taranaki iwi-owned enterprise Kaitahi is tapping into the country's superfoods market - and no blender is required.

What does your business do?

Kaitahi is a native superfood company. We've been set up to share traditional native plants and foods with the world in the form of concentrated drops which can be added to smoothies or eaten as a snack. We launched three months ago.

We got our people to start dreaming and brainstorming in 2014 and the product development journey kicked off in 2015 so it's been two to three years in the making to get to where we are now.

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What was motivation for starting it?

The inspiration to start this venture came from a collective of indigenous Maori based in South Taranaki. The drive to create a venture like this actually came from an external threat of sea bed mining that was coming into our region. We didn't wan to say no to economic development in our region but we wanted to see what our contribution to it could be, and this is the start of many ideas and aspirations.

What products do you sell?

We have triple berry protect, kiwi C boost and super green zing. Each of those includes our native plant foods kawakawa, kumara, puha and rewarewa honey.

Our frozen smoothie drops come in a bulk 1.2kg pouch which costs $40 and from that you get between 10 and 12 servings. It's a matter of combining a cup of our drops with any liquid and shaking it in a shaker - so there's no blender required.

Are your smoothie drops sold in supermarkets?

At the moment we're in negotiations with a major retail supermarket in New Zealand. We're also in discussions with distributors, including one here in Auckland. Our initial offering was designed for the food service and hospitality industries, providing an efficient way for cafes and restaurants to provide healthy beverage options on their menu. The goal is to be stocked in supermarkets and metropolitan cafes before the start of the summer heat.

Where did the idea for no blender smoothies come from?

It came from the relationships we were developing and the connections we made during the product development journey. We worked with a fantastic food technologist who through his networks in the manufacturing industry connected us with a factory that had the technology to transform liquid mixes into frozen drops. We see this as an advance on frozen smoothie blend products that are already out there. Liquid mix gets dropped onto a belt and moves through the glass freezer and comes out in frozen drops on the other end.

Kaitahi makes superfood drops for shakeable smoothies. Photo / Michael Craig
Kaitahi makes superfood drops for shakeable smoothies. Photo / Michael Craig

What is Kaitahi's long term plans?

Immediately, we want to be in full distribution domestically but we also have our eye on the export market. We want to share our native superfoods with the world.

We've had a strong sense of interest just from the Fine Foods exhibitions where we had a number of South East Asian and Asian market representatives coming to have a chat with us and asking if they could support getting our product into markets like Hong Kong and other areas. We are sensing that having our native ingredients in the products is intriguing others from overseas and that there is a global respect for indigenous values and perspectives, particularly on food.

What does the name Kaitahi mean?

Kaitahi came about from a collective of people from our iwi. We have a saying which means lets all get together and enjoy food with one another and in sharing of food we can share ideas and we connect, so that's one level of meaning that Kaitahi has for us. One another level it's about reconnecting with the foods that our ancestors regularly used and so in some respect we are fulfilling that idea of Kaitahi by reconnecting back to these foods that have been so important for us.

What is Kaitahi's plan for other future products?

We do have ideas for second and third generation products on our development road map and of course we're establishing this before we move on to the next. We see the second and third generation products will be more suited to export.

What advice do you give to others thinking about starting their own business?

Put your worries aside and starting talking about it with key people. The connections we have made and the conversations we have had for the past two months have elevated us. Keep your eye on the vision.