8 Jul 2022

Chatham Islands seafood business recognised for quality kai

From Nine To Noon, 10:05 am on 8 July 2022

A Chatham Islands seafood business has been named supreme winner of this year's Outstanding Food Awards.

The Chatham Islands Food Co took gold medals for its blue cod, pure pāua mince and pāua pies.

It's the first time a seafood business has taken the top spot in the competition.

Company founders Delwyn and Gigi Tuanui says the Chathams produce some of the world's best seafood and they have built a business model supplying throughout New Zealand.

“In the last few years, I guess we have really moved into the e-commerce space. And that comes with a lot of infrastructure, tech infrastructure.”

The supply from the tip to the toe of New Zealand, Gigi says.

“Since Covid, we’ve developed our online home delivery business, so wherever you are in New Zealand we are managing quite successfully to get it out there, frozen within 48 hours.”

Once the fish has landed, it’s immediately frozen, Delwyn says.

“It comes into our fish processing facility at night, it's cut the very next morning early and goes straight into a freezer that pulls the fish down to minus 50 degrees in about 24 hours.

“So, we're really focusing on locking in the freshness and the flavour of that fish.”

Once it's been through the freezing process, the fish is palletised and wrapped and goes on a ship to New Zealand from the Chathams, he says.

“The ship comes every three to four weeks, all going well, breakdowns and other things like weather can cause prolonged delays, it goes off the island in a ship and then is just dispatched on the mainland and gets trucked to our distribution warehouse in Christchurch.”

Customers order online, says Gigi.

“Ocean Salt pack it into little boxes with ice and it is delivered within 48 hours to their door.

“We've got a beautiful range of Chatham blue individually packed frozen fillets, we've got different assortments of pāua,  pāua mince, our incredible award-winning pāua pies, which are just going gangbusters which we've made in collaboration with West Coast Pie company.”

It’s a seasonal business on the fishing side of things, Delwyn says.

“Blue cod is predominantly fished during the autumn and winter months. The weather's cold, the water's cold, and the fish are in really good nick.

“So, with the cold water comes an increase in the fat through the flesh of the blue cod and a bit like Wagyu beef, the more fat in the flesh, the tastier the fish.”

The fish are unique because of the waters around the Chathams, Delwyn says.

“Because of our extreme isolation, we are 800 kilometres from any large landmass, we're essentially a rock in the middle of the ocean and so we don't have, like the mainland of New Zealand, a big landmass, big freshwater rivers, a lot of runoff from the land, silt and mud, because we're fishing inshore with fishing localised, fish that live on local reefs, sometimes a few 100 meters off the shore.

“We don't have that issue with runoff. We have the environment because of the isolation, because of the powerful seas around the islands, the fish swimming in the reefs and the ocean around us is really, really clean.

“It's either basalt rock floor or sand and that clean water, again you are what you eat. So clean water, a diet of pāua and crayfish and that's reflected in the taste of the fish.”