20 MINUTES WITH – Dr Kevin Glucina, Matakana Superfoods

Before he was ten years old, Dr Kevin Glucina was driving a tractor or running a forklift helping out at his family’s vineyard and orchard in Oratia, Auckland. “That type of education makes you resilient,” he told Supermarket News, “which we could probably do with a little more of these days.”

After graduating, he spent 20 years working in the natural health industry in Brisbane, during which time he and a friend took a trip to the Wudang Mountains in central China. “I had my eyes opened to the concept of superfoods, goji berries, reishi mushrooms, eating according to the season and environment that you find yourself in.”

Ten years ago, Dr Glucina founded Matakana Superfoods, amongst the very first companies globally to recognise and promote the potential benefit of super-nutrient wholefoods, integrating them into everyday products for health-conscious families. Matakana Superfoods was first to market in New Zealand with many now-ubiquitous superfoods, including chia seeds, goji berries, coconut sugar, and maqui berries.

As pioneers in the industry, the business forged early ties with indigenous tribes in the Andes and along the Amazon basin, as much of their produce was wild harvested. These links have been maintained over the decade since the company’s founding, with Peruvian tribes still supplying cacao products from criollo cacao groves near Machu Picchu. “It’s a much higher-grade cacao than the industrialised varieties which have been developed elsewhere around the world,” said Dr Glucina.

Matakana Superfoods source most of their ingredients for their Supershake and Acai bowl from another cooperative in Peru, fostering a “sustainable and socially responsible relationship.” By working with and supporting locals, Matakana Superfoods has helped grow their income, encouraging them to preserve and protect their forest from clearing. “The cooperatives that we deal with train the native farmers and also run excellent ISO/GMP facilities – a huge change from when we first started importing ten years ago.”

This year, the company transitioned to a new 2000m² warehouse and office complex in Matakana, launching their first sub-brand Love Organics in the process. The sub-brand produces hemp and ancient grain-based cereals, snacks, powders, and flours, using organic hemp imported from Canada. So far it has been well-received, with all nine of its products lining shelves at PAK‘nSAVE, as well as a smaller, core range on offer at New World.

But, Dr Glucina believes that there is room for improvement. “Most certified-organic hemp coming into New Zealand this year is coming from China. We don’t believe that a heavily industrialised country like China would be easily able to produce the quality organic products that most New Zealand consumers would expect.” Instead, Dr Glucina believes that more should be done to encourage and develop organic produce that is New Zealand-grown. “NZ is one of the easiest places on planet Earth to grow organic food, but production is very small at the moment.”

40 years into an organic lifestyle, he recently celebrated his 60th birthday and shows no signs of slowing down. “Turning 60 is a great time to do some reflecting and a little extra surfing.”