Born in the Basque country, Olga and Carlos Martinez have literally crossed the world to settle in New Zealand and, last March, they launched their homemade, gluten-free kumara product, called Kumara Fusion. It all started when Carlos developed a gluten intolerance, and the innovative couple set out to create an alternative food option with beneficial health properties.

What is your company background, how did you start the business?
“When Carlos, my husband, became sick and found out he had a gluten intolerance, we began researching on natural ways of recovering. Finding gluten-free food without preservatives was hard. Back home we eat quince paste, so after reading of the many goodnesses of the orange kumara, we started creating a kumara paste the way we used to make quince paste. To give it a gel texture we used agar, which also helps replenish the tummy flora. As we love chocolate we added the best chocolate, and with two variants out we started selling our product in farmers’ markets. Then, thanks to Callaghan Innovation, we took Kumara Fusion to the next step and got it ready for distribution in supermarkets. Now we sell in Foodstuffs’ stores, mainly New Worlds.”

What are the current product range and variants and how do these products stand out in the market?
“We have to say we are the only paste on the shelves that is not made out of fruit, but from kumara. Plus we use agar instead of gelatin, and we do not add preservatives of any kind. That is why we are in the chilled deli area. We have three varieties: Original, Chocolate and Honey. There are not any other pastes sweetened with honey or fused with chocolate, plus our products are naturally gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian, and our Original and Chocolate varieties are also vegan.”

What are the plans for the business moving forward? Is there any expansion on the horizon?
“We intend to expand to all the North Island and, of course, try to reach the South Island as soon as possible.”

Where are your products currently available to buy, and are you looking at or wanting to expand your availability? If so, where would you like to see the product situated?
“Our pastes are mainly sold in the deli area of New World stores. We would like to expand to Progressive, but we would also love to launch Kumara Fusion into foodservice and see chefs using it.”

Entries are now open for the 2016 New Zealand Food Awards, register your interest at http://www.foodawards.co.nz/.

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