Heilala Vanilla Paste from the Reunion Food Company was presented The Gourmet Award at the Massey University Food Awards last week.

Heilala Vanilla Paste was presented The GourmetAward by Massey University Food Awards judges.

The Awards, held last Thursday 28th October, were a celebration of innovation in New Zealand food product innovation and creativity.

As well as coming out on top against 26 competitors in the GourmetAward Category, Reunion Food Company were finalists in three other categories at the 2010 Food Awards with their Heilala Vanilla Paste and Heilala Vanilla Syrup.

The Gourmet Foods Award recognises excellence in the production of specialised food products designed for the exclusive, indulgent and high added-value segment of the retail food market. The judges commented that the potential for this gourmet ingredient in bakery applications, desserts and other dishes is due to its rich and delicate but intense vanilla flavour.

After extensive trialling and research, Heilala Vanilla Paste was made by reintroducing Vanilla seeds from pods to Heilala Vanilla Extract and adding a natural seaweed thickener to produce a paste which is made in Te Puna, Tauranga. Heilala is of the richest grade of Vanilla in the Asia Pacific region and is renowned for its distinctive aroma, shine and plumpness.

The paste is a very economical and convenient product for inclusion in desserts where both the full flavour and appearance of the Vanilla seeds is required without the hassle of splitting and scraping.

Heilala Vanilla paste along with a range of vanilla products are dispatched to executive chefs, gourmet food manufacturers and a selection of specialty retail outlets around New Zealand, as well as a growing market in Australia, Asia and recently the United States of America.

Heilala Vanilla Paste has recently featured on a number of gourmet food TV programmes including NZ on a Plate and Masterchef.
This is not the first time the product has won an award, in April 2009 Heilala Vanilla Paste achieved the highest rating by Flavours Magazine, Malaysia, an independent blind tasting panel, noting the natural flavour and being the closest product to a Vanilla Bean out of a number of Vanilla Paste products from around the world!

ABOUT HEILALA VANILLA
Heilala Vanilla began as an aid project over 8 years ago, when a Vanilla plantation was established by a NZ family, in partnership with a local family from the village of Utungake in Vava’u, Kingdom of Tonga. In 2005 the first crop was harvested and brought back to NZ, and was snapped up by local chefs.

Since these small beginnings of the first harvest of 40kg of dried Vanilla pods, Heilala Vanilla in 2009 completed a harvest of 1.2 tonne. This has had a significant impact on the local community providing employment and infrastructure.

Products are sold into specialty food retail, top end restaurants and gourmet food manufacturers. In 2009 export markets were established in Australia, Malaysia and Singapore and in August 2010 the first pallet was sent to the States.

In addition to the plantation in Tonga, a plantation was established in Tauranga, Bay of Plenty alongside the company’s manufacturing and marketing base.

This plantation was harvested for the first time in 2009, with the Vanilla Pods being released to NZ Chefs in March 2010 in special commemorative packages to mark this world first of Vanilla grown outside the equator band. This plantation is unique in that it uses the available geo thermal energy to heat the greenhouse and assist in duplicating the growing and climatic conditions in Tonga.

As a former NZ dairy farmer, John Ross, together with his son in law Garth Boggiss who has a horticultural background, have built up a vast knowledge of growing this very specialised crop rich in history through meeting and visiting Vanilla growers in many parts of the world (including Tahiti, Reunion Is and Costa Rica) . A plantation in both Tonga and in Tauranga as enabled a complete focus on the intricacies of growing Vanilla.

In addition to the Vanilla Paste, Heilala Vanilla has a range of 100% Pure Vanilla products, including Vanilla Pods, Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Sugar and the recent addition of Vanilla syrup.

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