Business of Traditional Māori kai

Husband and wife team Kristin (Taranaki whānui) and Glen Katu (Ngāti Maniapoto) have set up a whānau business, Tōku Gourmet, selling Māori kai – paua pickle, paua sauce and paua chutney to the world.

Tōku Gourmet was conceived in 2005 with pressure from Kristin and Glen’s three adult children and a cousin. “I’ve been making this for the whānau for a while and one of the kids said, ‘Mum why don’t you just start selling it?’” says Kristin.

But it wasn’t until Kristin’s cousin asked for the recipe for her friend who was a chef that Kristin decided it was time to explore its business potential. “I thought if someone’s going to try and make money out of it, it might as well be my whānau,” says Kristin.

The products are a blend of traditional Māori kai recipes handed down from Kristin’s mum Bettie Broughton and her father-in-law Hughes Katu mixed with Kristin’s own cooking style to create the distinctive flavours.

Because the products contained seafood, Kristin and Glen undertook extensive laboratory testing to ensure that the products met New Zealand Food Safety Standards and had a shelf life of 12 months.

“We were very pleased with the results from our testing. It was a long process but we are happy we stuck with it to ensure that our product was of high quality,” says Glen.

Last year Kristin and Glen approached Te Puni Kōkiri’s Business Facilitation Service account manager Michelle Baker. “We got a quality service and it was what we were looking for from Te Puni Kōkiri,” says Kristin.

“Michelle helped us with our business plan and put us in touch with a mentor, Kim Hill, from Strategi, who provided us with consultancy and exposed us to her networks including a graphic designer who is responsible for our label,” she says.

Kristin and Glen then undertook to open a commercial kitchen on their farm in Oparure, 7km north of Te Kuiti, to produce the products for their niche market. “Our vision is to take our traditional Māori kai to the world and at this stage we are looking at the Asian market,” says Kristin.

“We also are very keen to preserve the knowledge of our kai handed down to us and this is one way we are looking after this knowledge.”