Rachel Taulelei - Kea World Class New Zealand award winner

Rachel Taulelei - Kea World Class New Zealand award winner


We are proud of Rachel Taulelei, Kono CEO, who has been announced as one of the award winners of the 2019 Kea World Class New Zealand Awards. Rachel is being acknowledged for her contribution to the sustainable food industry, and her ongoing work promoting Aotearoa as a world-class producer of food and beverages.

The awards recognise inspirational, world leading New Zealanders and friends of New Zealand who are making outstanding contributions to New Zealand’s economic, social and cultural development.

Rachel joins other 2019 award winners Tim Brown, co-founder and CEO of Allbirds, and former All Whites vice-captain, and Dr Elizabeth Iorns, co-founder, President and CEO of the Science Exchange.

Kea’s three remaining 2019 WCNZ recipients will be revealed at the end of May, with the Supreme and Friend of New Zealand Awards announced an award ceremony in Auckland in June.

Kono openers ace mussel competition

This year’s annual Havelock Mussel and Seafood Festival saw the Kono team win major trophies in the opening competition, and wow festival-goers with delicious freshly shucked BBQ-ed mussels.

After the awful events in Christchurch the previous day, the atmosphere at this year's Havelock Mussel and Seafood Festival was a little quieter than usual. However, we appreciated being at an event that brought the Marlborough community together, and it was also good to be together supporting each other as Kono whānau," Karen O'Brien, General Manager, Foods says.
“The Kono mussel tent team were amazing ambassadors for our mussels and wine, and helped hundreds of festival goers appreciate our delicious kaimoana. Visitors to the tent were fascinated watching our openers shucking live mussels in front of them, and then the mussels going straight on the BBQ."

Once again, our Kono mussel openers showed off their superb skills. In the senior individual event Kono took out the top three places - Angela Fredericks, Aaron Greenhow, Danelle Moffat were first, second and third respectively. 

Kono had two teams in the senior team event. Kono One made up of Angela Fredericks, Danelle Moffat, Kathleen McLoone and Karl Buckland took out first place, with Kono Two made up of Aaron Greenhow, Rodel Daquioag, Thomas Taiapa and Taina Rangiuaia were deserving runners up.
“The results show the calibre of our openers. They enjoy getting the opportunity to showcase their specialist skills and they love the support they get from their colleagues, and from the crowds," Karen says.

“The day really is a team effort. The preparation starts well before the actual day. Megan Smith's contribution is invaluable, organising the time trials, t-shirts and then all the gear that our openers need to be able to compete. Kereana Norton, Ngarangi Love and Mee Mee Maung were part of the judging panel, and we had a crew of about 20 helping throughout the day at the mussel tent and BBQ. We had great weather and atmosphere, with lots of people enjoying our awesome mussels, our Tutū cider and our Kono Wines range," Karen says.

Tohu on turning 20, winemaking today and the future of Tohu

Tohu on turning 20, winemaking today and the future of Tohu


I feel really proud. It’s been such a great experience since I started in 2008, with so many amazing moments. Moments such as when our wines win Fine Wine of New Zealand awards make me feel privileged to work with a team where we can produce high quality wines and be recognised by our peers. We had a few rough years like in 2008, when we had one of our toughest vintages, so I’m very proud that we got through that. I think it’s also great that we work for a company, Kono, that has strong values which influences how we treat each other and how we work as a business.


Our single vineyard range has always been successful for us so when it came time to explore how our business could grow, we started discussing and working on this concept of a range dedicated to our whenua, our land. We have a passion for winemaking but we also are dedicated to honouring the land and our connection to the land, so it felt right to develop a range that focuses on just that.

Ou new Whenua range, which we are just bringing to the market, promises complexity and body – exactly what the region and the climate has given us. We think people who are really into wine will appreciate this range.

We also moved our current white label range into what is now called the Manaaki range.
Manaaki in Māori is about giving, sharing and showing hospitality and this is what this wine range is all about. It represents the relationship the wine holds with our everyday purchaser – buying a wine and sharing it with family and friends. It’s also about the relationship we have with our grape growers who work with us to create the wine in the bottle. These relationships have been around for years and it’s something we regard with much appreciation and respect. Manaaki represents a gift from us to you, the person who drinks our wine. We make it for people to enjoy the taste and experience of the wine.

With the Tohu Rewa Rosé joining the Rewa Blanc De Blancs, the Rewa range has become a range in its own right. There is something very special about sparkling wine from the Marlborough region made in Méthode Traditionnelle. It stands on its own merit against other sparkling wines from around the world and we are proud to be part of the Méthode Marlborough movement.

Finally, we will be developing our new Kaumātua range at the end of this year – so stay tuned.


I think the biggest challenge we are facing globally, and as a wine industry, is climate change. As an industry and as a profession, we rely so much on weather. Trying to manage conditions makes viticulture harder. The environment, unpredictable weather and the extreme changes can make vintages harder and can also make consistency and quality a challenge.

Another issue that was highlighted at a workshop I attended recently is that we are running out of space in the Marlborough region. It’s predicted that in around seven years' time there will be no more space to grow Marlborough grapes.


If these predictions come true, it may force some players out of the market. Limited supply could also enhance the premium reputation of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.


I mentioned before, the effects of climate change on our environment are an ongoing challenge. Trying to manage forecasts, and impacts of weather such as rain, winds, frosts all add pressure to the wine-making process. Having to plan for the known conditions and be reactive to the one-off weather events has challenged our winemaking process. We have a traditional philosophy towards winemaking and use very traditional winemaking methods at our winery. Our aim is to interfere with the grapes as little as possible. So we have to work with the challenges the grapes, the vintage, and the weather, have given us.


For me, the real benefits of having a winery is the amount of control we have over the style of wine we want to create. We have visibility over every single aspect of the liquid in the bottle, from vineyard to wine-making. It’s also fantastic having our winery in the Awatere Valley – the proximity of the vineyard to the winery means less skin contact between the grape bunches as transit from vineyard and winery isn’t too far. 


We have a few blocks in Awatere Valley which are organic. We’re moving towards this method of growing. It’s the way to go and obviously in demand, now our challenge is how to continue to achieve the quantities we need to.


As a business we have some well thought out and committed projects in place such as Whenua Ora, our land and water wellness programme. This is an ongoing journey, and I’m looking forward to seeing these initiatives be implemented. We’re in the early stages of this new programme, and we’ll be able to share more as it grows and develops.

I’m also really looking forward to growing the Whenua range as I believe it’s an important element of our story telling and really defines who we are, and our values as a business. In the long term, I’d like to see our Whenua range grow to be the hero range of our Tohu brand. I’d like to increase production while maintaining the quality and premium nature of our wines.


I’d like to see us expand our winery and be able to produce more wine – especially the single vineyard range. Expanding the winery will give us more opportunity and control.

Eventually, I’d also like to see our vineyards become fully organic. There are a lot of practices and learnings from Māori culture we can take and implement and learn from to naturally cultivate the land so I’d like to see us be leaders in this space. We’re already taking steps into this direction.


Getting official industry recognition through awards and reviews is satisfying, and it's great for the team to be recognised in that way for the work that we do. But the feedback that means the most to me comes from friends of mine that make wine. The best kudos I’ve had are when friends text or email me and say “Dude, I’m loving your Rore (reserve Pinot Noir) with my pizza!” That sort of feedback means a lot to me.

The Fine Wines of New Zealand award is significant because it’s not just one vintage and one tasting and one wine show – the award goes back and measures a number of years of quality and consistency. It means a lot to us to be recognised for that long-term consistency.   


It really varies from the time of the year. From September to February, our grape-growing is happening. We are monitoring the development of the grapes, doing lots of maintenance of the vineyard, like pruning. Around this time of the year, weather watching for frost is a big task for the vineyard managers – they work pretty hard with 4 am starts right before Christmas. Then March to April is harvest. The vineyards are busy with grape pickers and machine-harvesters. During this time the winery is running 24 hours a day, with a day shift and night shift. We’ve got grapes coming in from the vineyards, which are then pressed and put into tanks. May to June sees the end of harvest and is the time when the vineyard takes a break. This is usually around Matariki, which the start of the Māori New Year, and a traditional time for Māori to let their cultivated lands rest in preparation for the next season. Then in July and August, we start preparing the vines for the next vintage, and the whole cycle starts again.


I’m fascinated by the world of wine. I enjoy tasting wine and I like how each year, a wine will taste different according to the vintage. I’m also interested in wine from a social perspective - how people like to enjoy their wine.

Whānau a top priority

Whānau a top priority

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Renee Heta

Operations Manager – Kono Seafood

Renee talks about why working for Kono is a great match, her love of seafood, and why her whānau are so important to her.

 As Operations Manager at the Kono mussel processing factory in Blenheim, Renee is responsible for the day-to-day site operations.  “It’s a busy factory, running 24 hours a day, five to six days a week.  Any down-time in the weekends is taken up with the necessary maintenance work to keep the factory running on form,” Renee says.

The Kono mussel operation has around 230 staff on site during the mussel season, sending half-shell greenshell mussels to 25 countries.  At the start of every processing season, Kono runs a two-day induction to bring staff back on board.  Renee says it’s an awesome experience that gives value to everyone who attends and gets better every year. “This year some of our key staff presented across the two days. The leadership team were awesome and I was super proud. It’s not easy to talk in front of a big crowd but they did it with ease.”

Renee wasn’t originally planning a long-term career with Kono.  “Kono was supposed to be a pit stop for me, but as I got to know the people and the business better, along with understanding the values and knowing that I was a part of an intergenerational vision, it was easy for me to stay.”  She says the Kono value of whanaungatanga really resonates with her - recognising the work of many, not just one, when it comes to life and mahi. 

 “Whānau is really important to me and my partner Ana-marie.  I’m the oldest in a big family of five brothers and three sisters and I have a gazillion nieces and nephews. I love spending time with my nieces, nephews and whānau in general, they’re a cheeky, crazy fun-loving bunch.”  

Renee not only works with seafood during the day but enjoys it at home too. “There’s nothing like a tapas seafood dinner with a nice bottle of Tohu Hemi Chardonnay!”  She loves living in Te Tau Ihu and getting to the beaches and rivers in the warmer weather. “There’s so many places to go see and enjoy.”

Blossoming on our orchards

Blossoming on our orchards

As part of our Tangata Ora focus for this month Karla Bradley, pipfruit manager on our orchards, shares her reflections about the impact that spring growth in the orchard has on her wellbeing.

Karla was inspired by the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week this year - 'Mā te taiao e ora ai - let nature in, strengthen your wellbeing' - let nature in, strengthen your wellbeing'.​

"The new pear variety 'Piqa Boo' has unusual flowers. With their red leaves and black anthers, I noticed for the first time this year how striking they are compared to other pear blossoms. 

It's amazing how even after 13 years in the horticulture industry, apple and pear blossoms still have an overwhelming effect on my wellbeing. 

The sweet and fresh scent of the blossoms and the activity of the bees are a reminder that the winter months are over, and a new summer is on the way. 

As we get ready to dive into another growing season, the orchard almost pauses while we wait and watch the spring growth. 

It's a good time for reflection, and time to gather our thoughts before the pace of orchard life ramps up again.​"

A tradition of innovation

A tradition of innovation

Jarrod Robinson explains how family traditions, innovation and a passion for culture and food all come together in his role as New Product Development Manager at Kono.

As New Product Development Manager for Kono, Jarrod Robinson is responsible for the coordination process from idea through to a commercial food or beverage product. “Together we strive to sustainably add value to our primary resources from Te Tau Ihu, the top of the South Island,” says Jarrod.

Jarrod describes himself as a conceptual thinker and a connector of people. “As a qualified food technologist my mind is full of ideas and being part of the Kono team allows me to utilise this strength. I admire how Kono invests in innovation programmes and new product development. Together we are continuously looking how to do better things and how to best utilise our resources. Really exciting stuff!”

His passion for his connection to the Nelson region is clear when he talks about his family’s background. “My ancestors were pioneers of fruit, fruit wine and juice making in New Zealand. Established in 1910, Robinson’s of Stoke was the first company to commercially produce 100 percent fruit juice for the New Zealand market. They continued to innovate and over the years new product lines were introduced.  As the business expanded and changed, the original orchard made way for real estate development.” 

“I was passed down the cider making method from my grandfather and father...”

One of his proudest moments at Kono was the commercialisation of Tutū Cider. “I was passed down the cider making method from my grandfather and father. To see the cider have a new lease of life, and witness it win awards on the local and international stage was truly rewarding.”

When he’s not at work, Jarrod is indulging in his other passion – travel. “I love to experience new environments and cultures. I’m drawn to indigenous cultures and to see how communities work and live together. We can all learn a lot from each other.”  He and his husband, Drew, also love to host dinner parties. He describes his favourite go-to three course dinner: “Glaze chicken nibbles with miso and honey to start. Flash fry scallops with chorizo and serve on risotto with sautéed vegetables for main.  Then there is nothing like my mother-in-law’s Black Doris plum cheese cake with a gingernut base to finish off the meal!”

Jarrod says he was drawn to Kono because of its strong values and diversity of operations. “Coming from a family of innovators, the value of Hihiko resonates very strongly with me – curiosity and problem solving, always striving for improvement.”

The K Icon

Last year we introduced our new ‘K’ icon for Kono. Our K icon speaks of who we are, our rich legacy steeped in a culture that nourishes our land and people in sustainable ways. We are kaitiaki and our promise is love for the land, respect for the sea.

Recently we collaborated with talented sand artist Marcus Winter (the Sandman) on a new way of telling the story behind our icon  – we invite you to watch and enjoy

Matariki - What & When?

Matariki - What & When?



What & When?


One of the most significant celebrations in the Māori calendar is Matariki, the indigenous New Year. Matariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades. It rises in mid-winter – late May or early June. For early Māori, Matariki was strongly connected to the seasons and was an indicator of the forthcoming year.


Some iwi start celebrations when Matariki is first seen, however it is the first new moon after Matariki that officially signals the Māori New Year. Some people celebrate the New Year on the day the new moon rises, and others celebrate on the day after the new moon, which this year is June 15th. 

A passion for sustainability and people

A passion for sustainability and people

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Karla Bradley

Pipfruit Manager
(Ngāti Koata and Ngāti Kuia)

Karla is a Wakatū Owner, and is Pipfruit Manager in the Kono Horticulture team. 

Kono is the associated food and beverage business of Wakatū Incorporation. Wakatū has approximately 4,000 shareholders who descend from the original Māori landowners of the Nelson, Tasman and Golden Bay regions – Te Tau Ihu.

Karla has over a decade of experience in the horticulture industry and has been part of the Kono Horticulture team for six years. For the last two years, she has had the role of Pipfruit Manager, based in our orchards in Motueka. As Pipfruit Manager she runs the day-to-day activities at our apple and pear orchards.

“I love working at Kono. It’s firmly a Māori business and I enjoy how we weave the cultural aspects and our values into our work lives. I like how we recognise important events such as the start or completion of harvest with a dawn blessing at our rongo. In terms of kaitiakitanga, I get a buzz out of thinking about the sustainability of the land. Growing the apple and pear crops is my every day mahi, but I like thinking about how to make things better - that’s why I’m studying,” Karla says.

Karla has all but completed her Diploma of Horticulture via Lincoln University. “Balancing working full-time with studying has been a challenge at times, particularly around the timing of the academic year with the horticultural year – my exams falling at the same time as harvest wasn’t ideal – but I survived!”

“Manaakitanga is another value that really resonates with me. I just love working with people. This role isn’t just taking care of crops. Caring for people is an important aspect as well.”

“I’m passionate about sustainability, and encouraging more women and young girls to consider a career in horticulture. I’ve helped set up Grow NZ Women, a women's horticulture network group to encourage more women to enter the industry and to take their horticulture careers further.”

Outside of work, Karla is passionate about sport, and plays netball and touch rugby. She has is also been busy building a new home with her partner and Dad on a piece of land in Puketūtū, one of the Wakatū subdivisions in Motueka.

Karla’s advice to anyone thinking of working at Wakatū Incorporation?

“If you think about something that you are really good at, and something that you enjoy, you’ll find a career opportunity in one of Wakatū Incorporation’s businesses – whether it’s being outdoors working on the land, being creative in our sales and marketing team, or working with numbers in our business support team, there are heaps of opportunities to find something that matches your skills and passions.”

Karla’s ‘get right to it’ attitude to work and life is reflected in her response to the question of whether she has a favourite whakataukī or saying. “I like the saying ‘walk the walk’ – let your actions do the talking!”

  • Want to join Karla and the Horticulture team? At Kono we ensure the development of a place where talented people want to live and work; a community that talented people love to be a part of. We are one of the largest employers in the Nelson and Marlborough region with a variety of jobs in viticulture, horticulture, aquaculture and food production including sales and marketing and research and innovation.
    Get in touch or browse our current vacancies.

A business of families, and a family of businesses

We love storytelling at Kono. As a business of families, and a family of businesses, we are really proud to have partnered with the NZ Story on a video that gives an insight into our every day - who we are, where we come from, where we are heading, and what is behind our promise of love for land, respect for the sea.  Ka mau te wehi.

Gate to the globe

A few weeks back you could see Tohu Wines take over New York! Make sure you tune in and watch this inspiring new series telling the amazing success stories of Maori Exports into some of the most sophisticated markets on the planet.