Wholesome whānau kai an award-winning recipe for Māori businesswoman

By James Perry

A vision to deliver quality kai using whānau recipes has seen Reni Wereta-Gargiulo recognised at the Māori Businesswoman Awards.

Wereta-Gargiulo (Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Rauru Kītahi, Te Ātiawa) is the owner of Nelson-based Kiwi Kai Nelson which produces 'nourishing and finely balanced' kai with a strong emphasis on indigenous fusion and seafood. She was crowned Supreme Award winner and Business Collaboration Award winner at the annual Māori Women's Development Incorporation event in Auckland at the weekend. 

"I was literally over the moon, quite blown away. The calibre of women in the awards was huge, so I was excited, and still am," she told teaomaori.news

Kiwi Kai Nelson produces kai using recipes inspired by the taste of her childhood, and Wereta-Gargiulo founded the company as a means of working for herself.

"I was in a position where I wanted to work for myself, and I decided, 'yes, we'll start making raw fish, kids' and they thought I was crazy, but it's come to fruition."

She says Māori women are becoming a bigger and stronger presence in the business landscape, here and around the globe.

Many more wonderful wāhine

"The growth of Māori women in business is huge. It was more than evident at these awards. The calibre of businesswomen out there for Māori was very, very high. Apparently, there were 300 applications for these awards, which just goes to show that's just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more wonderful, intelligent, educated and inspiring wāhine out there. 

"It was a really proud moment to be a part of but also knowing there are a lot more of us in the same position."

The company has a vision of creating kai that avoids a negative impact on the environment, using locally sourced ingredients, and a premise of four ingredients or less per dish. 

"Our team are encouraged to be a part of a strategy of successive releases to create an innovative product eco-system, which we're doing."

Indigenous drink label

Kiwi Kai Nelson has a shop in the centre of Nelson, an online shop, and also regularly attends local markets.

It also has a drink label, Atutahi, that fuses indigenous plant species like Kawakawa, Horopito and Kūmarahou with fruit flavours with distribution as far as Australia. Wereta-Gargiulo says while she would love to have her products on the global market, she isn't in a hurry to expand.

"I'm sure from this [award] we'll get there, it's just when."