The MiNDFOOD Producer Awards aim is to recognise the best of the Wellington region’s producers and bring their products to a wider audience during the popular Wellington On a Plate festival, which showcases the region’s finest food and beverages.
MiNDFOOD sponsored four new award categories at this year’s event – Producer of the Year; Producer of the Year Runner Up; Best New Producer; and Best Sustainability (for the best sustainability practices used throughout the entire business).
The Winners Were:
MiNDFOOD Producer of the Year – Bees Blessing
MiNDFOOD Producer of the Year Runner Up – Carrello del Gelato
Best New Producer – Six Barrel Soda Co.
Best Sustainabilty – Kingsmeade Artisan Cheese
Judge Fran Wilde says: “The new Producer Awards could turn out to be one of the most important features of the entire Wellington On a Plate festival because it showcases the inherent quality of food grown in the region – even by small start-up companies. Our top producers are characterised by a remarkable mixture of foresight and skill, with huge knowledge of their particular specialties. Through the MiNDFOOD Producer Awards, they will become the shop window for the Wellington region, hopefully influencing readers to come here and try it out for themselves.”
Upper Hutt family business Bees Blessing had the blessing of the judges when it was awarded the inaugural MiNDFOOD Producer of the Year Award at the Visa Wellington on a Plate Awards on August 8.
“We are excited to be working alongside Grow Wellington and Wellington On a Plate in showcasing the region’s best producers. Our inaugural winner, Bees Blessing, is from an innovative husband and wife team and is a unique product showing strong use of local ingredients and has national and international appeal,” Michael McHugh, Editor-in-Chief of MiNDFOOD.
Bees Blessing, run by husband and wife Ian Stewart and Jo Donnelly, produces eight flavours of honey-based cordials, three of which are seasonal and made when local produce becomes available, such as elderflowers in the summer-edition cordial. The cordial recipes are all Bees Blessings originals, some based loosely on traditional favourites such as Lemon Honey & Ginger, and some completely unexpected such as Strawberry or Lemon & Thyme, made with thyme honey. Their focus is on making a healthier product, which is why they choose honey rather than sugar.
The business is based around the couple’s organic farming lifestyle and belief in additive and preservative free food. Bees Blessing only uses all-natural and organic ingredients. All the cordials are lovingly handmade from start to finish at the Bees Blessings premises in Upper Hutt. The business began five years ago when the family began selling honey from its Mangaroa Valley farmlet, Kau Whero Farm, at the local market. A range of different flavours followed and Bees Blessing still maintains a regular presence at the Harbourside Market in Wellington. Angela Brownie, festival co-director and Grow Wellington’s general manager for business growth, says, “The new Producer Awards highlights one of the most important dimensions of Visa Wellington On a Plate. It recognises and celebrates the craft, creativity and diversity of Wellington region food and beverage producers and sets a benchmark for quality, particularly for artisan products, that the rest of New Zealand aspires to.”
Over the past four years Bees Blessing has grown significantly and is now available from more than 50 boutique retailers and eateries throughout New Zealand. Jo Donnelly says they had focused on continuous improvement and producing a high quality product. “We get overwhelmingly positive customer feedback about our products; that they are healthier, taste fantastic and make people feel good,” she says.
“It is also of great value for New Zealand producers to have the recognition this award confers when entering into new export markets,” adds Brownie. “Visa Wellington On a Plate, as New Zealand’s premier culinary festival, provides an internationally rated framework for the award. When it’s combined with MiNDFOOD’s own stellar reputation the award becomes a truly covetable and exciting new opportunity for Wellington’s world-class food and beverage producers.”
For more information about the winners and the awards: Editor-in-Chief Michael McHugh [email protected] Sydney +61 (02) 9318 1300 Auckland +64 (09) 362 0770