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Marian Johnson

The Influencers: Marian Johnson

One of the best parts of my job is getting to meet talented entrepreneurs and helping them succeed. And that’s exactly what the whole team got to do last week at the Pressure Cooker final of FoodStarter 2019 – a national competition looking for the most innovative food and beverage startups in New Zealand.


Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

There were five talented startups who made the cut on Wednesday night from a total of 121 entries from all over New Zealand. The judging panel got to taste some seriously delicious vegan Kiwi Dip, the creamiest sheep’s milk yoghurt, flavourful vegan pastrami, dainty pre-biotic pudding, and the most amazing vegan sausage we have ever had the good fortune to experience. And – you guessed it – the winner was Ananda Simply Wholefoods with their spicy vegan sausage that was simply outstanding.

Locally sourced, plant-based, dairy and gluten free was definitely the theme of this year’s competition, nicely summed up by one of the competitors, Paul Seymour, whose presentation began with the statement ‘Veganism is the greatest social revolution in the history of the world!”

Ananda now goes on to win the $75,000 FoodStarter business incubation package whose main prize is the holy grail for most food startups – full distribution of their product across the Foodstuffs South Island retail network, courtesy of New World. They’ll also get a full brand review from Strategy Advertising, everything they need to scale to retail production from FoodSouth, and business mentorship and commercialisation how-to from our team at Ministry of Awesome.







Fostering culinary innovation

Kiwis are well known for their ingenuity, but even with all the imagination in the world, it can be hard for entrepreneurs to kick-start their great ideas without the right support. Access to expertise, research and development and the ability to get their product in front of people can be the biggest road blocks to success.



A partnership between Foodstuffs South Island and Ministry of Awesome, the FoodStarter competition aims to identify the most innovative and promising food or beverage product in New Zealand and help the winner get it to retail.

FoodStarter 2019 is now open for entries – and the prize is a food entrepreneur’s dream. This year’s prize pack is worth more than $75,000, and includes product development from FoodSouth, brand and design guidance from Strategy Advertising, business acceleration at Te Ōtaka – Centre for Growth and Innovation, and guidance from the team at MYOB. Winners also receive something money can’t buy – the guaranteed placement of their product stocked across all New World stores in the South Island. The month-long search culminates in a ‘Pressure Cooker’ event on 20 November, when the top five finalists present their product to a panel of experts and the winner is announced.

Last year’s winners, The Brothers Green, aka Brad Lake and Brendon McIntosh, won the 2018 FoodStarter competition. More than 98,000 of their Green Hempy Bars are now in production, along with hemp clothing and skincare ranges.
Foodstuffs Chief Executive Steve Anderson said it was exciting to see innovative, small-scale companies like The Brothers Green getting their products on supermarket shelves. What often holds entrepreneurs back is access to expertise, R&D and barriers to market; FoodStarter helps remove these barriers.

“Winning products are not just born in big companies – it’s innovative entrepreneurs and small businesses like The Brothers Green who often disrupt the norm by using raw products in ways which can have major success,” Anderson says.
To be eligible, entrants must be an individual entrepreneur or small business with an innovative food or beverage product. Entrants can come from anywhere in New Zealand, but the winner must be willing to take full advantage of the Canterbury-based acceleration prize package.

Last year’s top five ‘Pressure Cooker’ finalists were Fernglen Limited, The Brothers Green, The Kasundi Project, Ento, and Empire Coffee.





A culinary competition: FoodStarter

New Zealand’s most innovative and promising food or beverage product may be quietly lurking in a local farmers’ market now and, thanks to a new competition, this time next year it could be on New World supermarket shelves South Island wide.




The competition is the brainchild of Ministry of Awesome and Foodstuffs South Island who, along with some of the best experts in the business, will select a passionate business owner who has the drive and passion and an innovative, sustainable, on-trend product. The winner receives a package worth more than $95,000, but the biggie is the business acceleration package which includes the chance to set up a Canterbury manufacturing base and guaranteed placement of the winning product in New World supermarkets across the South Island.

Canterbury is a hot-bed of opportunity and business innovation, offering the perfect HQ for a high growth food and beverage entrepreneur’s bold ambitions.
Foodstuffs South Island CEO, Steve Anderson says FoodStarter provides the opportunity for someone to bring an exciting new product to market. “Winning products are not just born from big companies – innovative entrepreneurs and small businesses often disrupt the norm by creating products which have major success.

“What often holds them back is the inability to access the right expertise and inroads into the Foodstuffs co-operative’s distribution channels.” Entries close on 7 October with the search culminating in the Pressure Cooker event – a dragon’s den style selection process where the top five entrants will present to a panel of experts in hope of securing the top prize on October 31.


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