Zeli!’s handmade traditional Czech sauerkraut is a naturally fermented, probiotic super food made in small batches from locally sourced produce. In addition to the traditional sauerkraut made with cabbage, salt and caraway seeds, owner Vrati Smida developed three flavours for the New Zealand market; chilli, coriander and ginger, and turmeric. Rich in vitamin C, B and K, sauerkraut balances stomach pH, helps break down proteins, is low in calories and high in calcium and magnesium, and is a good source of dietary fibre, folate, iron and potassium.

“Back home in Czech there is only one way to make sauerkraut and that is the Classic Caraway. It is so simple and delicious, but I wanted to create a product that could be used much more widely in New Zealand’s varied modern cuisine. About a year and a half ago I could not find any nice sauerkraut, everything was imported, pasteurised and vinegar added. Nothing raw, crunchy and fresh,” Smida said.

Has there been any recent company news?

“The most significant, and exciting for us, is our new packaging which has allowed us to enter the retail market with great success! Our main retail outlet in Auckland is Farro Fresh, and in Wellington the fabulous Moore Wilsons. There are also numerous deli stores in Auckland and on Waiheke Island that stock zeLi!. Further afield, we are in specialist food stores in Nelson and Blenheim with more coming. The full list of current retailers is available on our new website which is our other recent development. We courier anywhere around the country for orders received online so anyone can source zeLi! for themselves regardless of location! We continue to have our very busy spot at La Cigale market in Parnell each weekend where we meet our regulars and introduce new products such as the amazing zeLi! pickles. We are well into our third year now and demand for our artisan kraut has increased dramatically, but we still produce in the traditional way - naturally fermented with no starter cultures. Each batch is blended with our hand selected herbs and fermented for at least a month in large ceramic pots imported from the Czech Republic. Labour intensive but the end result is worth it. Genuine, crunchy, juicy, full flavoured kraut that retains all the health benefits that are lost in fast track or mass production.”

What is the current product range and variants and how do these products stand out in the market?

“zeli! is not just another kraut – the Classic Caraway is my grandmother's recipe so my foundation product is homemade family food that has been a staple of the central and eastern European diet for centuries. That is the biggest difference between zeLi! and other brands of sauerkraut. The perception is that it is easy to do but if you take shortcuts it is obvious in the end result. The only things that go in to zeLi! are locally grown from small producers and organic as much as possible.”

“Our range is:

#Classic Caraway - himalayan salt, caraway seeds (this is the base for all other flavours)

#LeDiChi - lemon zest, dill, chilli,

#Orange to Goodness - kaffir lime, carrot, turmeric

#East meets West - ginger, coriander, lemongrass.”

What are the plans for the business moving forward, is there any expansion on the horizon? 

We have new fermented products that we are looking forward to launching this summer (will keep this as a surprise for customers)!