Local Waiuku business Fresh West Ltd owned by Gaven and Vanessa Naylor were named as finalists in the New Zealand Food Awards.
They were unlucky and did not secure a title at the awards ceremony held on Thursday 12 October. Gaven and Vanessa were both proud to be finalists in two categories after entering for the first time ever.
They were selected for the Artisan Food Producers Award and MPI Primary Sector Products Award for their product, King Sweeties, a specialty sweet capsicum, that Vanessa Naylor described as, “once you try them, you’ll be hooked.”
While they produce capsicums all year round, it takes about three months for them to grow from seedlings to the final product that is packaged and sold.
The trial for the King Sweeties began ten years ago.
“It takes a few years to develop them and then get it up to good commercial numbers,” Gaven said. They cost more to produce and there’s less of them, but Gaven says growing has increased year on year.
They received excellent feedback after taking them to the Auckland Food Show.
“About 90 per cent of people loved them,” Vanessa said. “Even people who didn’t like capsicums enjoyed them. They’re sweet, have less seeds and the skins are thinner. The biggest hurdle is that, due to their shape, people think they’re chilli’s,” Vanessa said.
Gaven has a background in horticulture, however, capsicums were different to any other vegetable he’d grown before.
“We had to find our own place in the market,” he said. “There are bigger farms with 20 hectares plus, and they can dominate the market, so we needed to find a way to be different and trial new products.”
Both Gaven and Vanessa love their work, which they say is more of a lifestyle choice than a job.
“With growing and a family life, it’s flexible and we’re lucky with the staff we have,” Vanessa said.
“The challenges have been difficult, but we enjoy it. It’s a slow process,” Gaven said.
They will reach full production in November and their produce which includes King Sweeties, Little Sweeties and Wee Sweeties can be bought from most supermarkets.
They encourage you to “try something new.”
The overall winners of the MPI primary sector products award went to T&G for their low-carb potatoes ‘Lotatoes’.