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Tōrere Macadamias New Air NZ Snack

SINCE the announcement of its partnership with Air New Zealand, Torere Macadamias has been “bombarded with support” from growers, corporate buyers, customers, and manufacturers.

Torere Macadamias’ cinnamon glazed macadamias have been selected in the Air NZ Great Kiwi Snack Off as a new luxury in-flight snack for long haul and business class flights in 2024.

Founder and general manager Vanessa Hayes is “absolutely rapt” at the news. “Being selected by Air New Zealand is an ultimate if you work in food,” she said. The company is an intergenerational whānau business, providing education and job opportunities for the local community and other regions while growing a New Zealand organic macadamia industry. It grows and sells macadamia trees and produces an extensive range of macadamia snacks and innovative products.

The company’s macadamias were one of 11 snacks selected alongside the likes Graze Skinny dipped almonds, Dr Bugs Popcorn Treats, and QB Crunchy Cheese. Ms Hayes, submitted an expression of interest in March 2023, alongside 1500 applicants.

Of these, 400 were selected to progress through a stringent procurement process. Forty were then chosen to showcase their products in Auckland with the winners announced last month.

“It was intimidating, but exciting. When it’s time to showcase what you’ve built, all you can do is put your best foot forward and let the product speak for itself,” Ms Hayes said.

She presented four of Torere Macadamia’s most popular products including chocolate-coated macadamias – a mix of white, milk, and dark chocolate – salt roast macadamias and dry roast macadamias. Air NZ also requested samples of their Karengo and Kawakawa Dukkha. “They told us they absolutely loved our products, and I took the opportunity to showcase everything,” Ms Hayes said.

Ultimately, the cinnamon-glazed macadamias were selected by the airline, with the other products on the radar for future events or opportunities. Ms Hayes is owner and kaitiaki of the whenua at Torere.

The land on which Torere Macadamias’ orchard and nursery are established was gifted to her by her kaumatua Uncle Wiremu Kerekere.

The company is owned by Ms Hayes and her partner, Rod Husband, with Vanessa’s children and grandchildren involved at all levels, supporting its growth from inception. Torere Macadamias leads the New Zealand Macadamia Industry 10-year Growth Strategy to grow 1000 ha of organic macadamias with varieties researched over 35 years, for which they have sole rights.

The orchard is certified organic, spanning nine hectares with 3000 trees, with 1500 producing 20-ton of nut in shell in 2022 and 1500 new plantings in progress from 2023.

The balance, a 2ha block with beach frontage, is home to the New Zealand macadamia variety trials, a 50,000-plant nursery, nut in shell processing, staff and training facilities, and the largest pohutukawa tree in New Zealand. The nursery and organic orchard are run by Ms Hayes’ son, Walter Rika, with six staff.

Mr Rika is also involved in grower liaison, advising and assisting new growers to implement the organic soil health program, ensuring consistent yields and quality for the future grower cooperative. Ms Hayes handles all plant sales, orchard planning and marketing with monthly field days held at Torere.

She also does product development, product sales and marketing from Gisborne, with two staff and daughter-in-law Hannah Bakewell, who manages an active social media presence for online sales.

Mr Husband provides quality control over all operations, particularly orchard care to ensure consistent superior nut quality and yields are achieved. Plant and Food Research and High Value Nutrition NZ has identified that Torere Macadamias varieties are significantly higher in selenium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium and manganese than imported macadamias.

Prominent factors in the Air NZ decision to choose Torere Macadamias is the company’s years of contributing towards sustainability, community, social impact and innovation.

“We make sure everyone we sell macadamia trees to has the opportunity to learn how to grow organically, with proper soil health advice specific to macadamias to ensure consistent high yields, nutrition and quality for our proposed grower cooperative,” Ms Hayes said.

Orchard and nursery staff are local Māori, with NZQA qualifications plus they are trained to maintain sustainable organic practices and work-based matauranga and maramataka.  Torere Macadamias provides these quality standards to all macadamia growers for them to follow and implement.

Ms Hayes also introduced NZQA Level 2 and 3 curriculums to Eastern Institute of Technology to support growers. The first training course was held at Torere in 2019 for Torere staff and local growers. This training course was extended to three regional macadamia collectives in Raukokore/Waihau Bay, Mataatua (Te Teko and Ruatoki), and Ruatoria (Ngāti Porou) in 2022/23. The 2023/24 Mataatua macadamia training course is being held in Whakatāne.

These innovations have not only caught the spotlight of Air NZ, but of Whakaata Māori, with a full documentary featuring Torere Macadamias in the new season of Home, Land and Sea, scheduled for release in February.

Cinnamon-glazed macadamias will be available on overseas business-class flights from June 2024.