What do you get when you put cheese and chocolate together, beer and candy, or even better: Bourbon and Honey? We are not sure what you call these creations. Individually they are amazing. Together, we discovered them to be phenomenal!
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The Two Cowboys accepted an invitation from Dale Spencer to attend the annual Auckland Chocolate and Coffee Show. It happened at The Cloud on the Auckland Waterfront, during the recent Fathers Day Weekend (The Kiwi's do Fathers day on a different day to the rest of the world. Here it is done in Spring. As part Kiwi and part Canadian, I get to have Fathers day twice in a year.)
The show made a bold promise: "You will be enticed by irresistible aromas and exotic flavours, amazed by the diversity of products, surprised by the skills displayed, informed about techniques to use at home and excited about everything on offer for two days only at The Chocolate and Coffee Show."
It sounds like poetry, doesn't it? Enticing, amazing, surprising, informing, and exciting. We had to find out more. Come with us...
We think New Zealand is an oasis in the Producer and maker universe. The sheer number of artisan businesses in this beautiful country is mind-blowing if it is compared to other similar populations, like our native Alberta, Canada. A lot of these businesses are involved in the production of high quality food products. Chocolate and Coffee is no exception.
This makes sense given the agricultural abundance and climate of the two New Zealand Islands. Add to this old-world craftsmanship, with new-world innovation from a growing and ever more energetic immigrant population, and you have a winning recipe for creative artisan enterprise. People come from Italy, France, Brazil, England, South Africa, China, and almost every other nation of the world and end up within a melting pot of reinvention and new creation.
This energy produce quality products, better processes, and all round deliciousness. New Zealand as a country is better off for it. I don't think they know just how lucky they are.
To illustrate my point: In this small market, and in one room on a Sunday morning in downtown Auckland, we've found the worlds best Limoncello, the world's second best Blue Cheese for 2015, a beer that tastes like Rocky Road Candy, Beer Jelly, Chocolate Salami, Pilsner Ganache, Gourmet Nut Butter (with maple Syrup). The list goes on and on.
It is amazing to think that this is only one tiny sliver of a food show, amongst many that take place throughout the year. True food innovation is happening in New Zealand. It is delicious.
How can this be possible?
Here is a theory on why New Zealand has flourishing artisan food businesses:
- New Zealand Attracts Amazing Talent: People from all over the world flock to the safety and lifestyle of New Zealand, with a moderate climate and friendly tolerant people. This talent brings important and unique knowledge and skill from their home countries. They know how to produce some of the worlds best products and they have not choice but to give it a go in an environment that makes it easy to do.
- Ingredients: Talent is married with amazing ingredients and access to processes and equipment. New Zealand produces some of the best ingredients in the world. Its dairy products are well known. Other ingredients are imported with little effort from all over the world. Equipment is locally manufactured by equally enterprising entrepreneurial engineers, or acquired from Asia, Europe and America. Training and education is accessible, and people are encouraged to be entrepreneurial.
- It is Easy to Do Business in New Zealand: Yes, the mandatory registrations, labour laws, safety compliance, and permitting is around as is expected (overbearing in some cases), but people tolerate the overhead in a flourishing economy. It is going well in New Zealand financially, compared to some of the other markets in the world. People have hope, stability and are encouraged to produce.
- Access to Customers and Markets: For small artisan food businesses there are a number of market opportunities that stand out. Farmers' markets are abundant and well supported. Food shows and festivals take place often and give exposure to up and coming and established businesses. Online retailing is easy. Shipping locally and internationally is effective and affordable. It is a small country, and people travel easily. Enterprise mobility is encouraged. (New Zealand hasn't really woken up to the mobile food/goods truck scene, but it is only a matter of time before you will find them in main centres. Towns like Nelson (I've heard) have already embraced the movement.)
- Tourism: People from all over the world enjoy New Zealand's products and love to visit for the scenery. Tourism is now New Zealand's largest industry. Businesses serving this discerning market is encouraged, popular and does well financially. If small businesses cannot go to large markets, it is better to encourage these markets to come to you. New Zealand is doing a good job of marketing the country with visitor numbers growing year-over-year.
As you can see. A lot is going right in New Zealand's small and medium producer business. We love to tell these successful stories. Keep an eye out for more from the Chocolate and Coffee show, and others as we discover them on our amazing journey. We promise to keep it coming.
Hendrik van Wyk
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