We should expect more great and new food and beverages to come out of the region in a few years’ time.

Hawke’s Bay food innovators will have access to expertise to help them commercialise new food, beverage and agri-tech products with a $18 million Food Innovation Hub planned for Hastings by 2022.

Foodeast, as it will be called, will find its home at the Tomoana Food Hub in Elwood Road, Hastings, assuming the region finds $6 million to add to the Government’s $12 million allocated from the Provincial Growth Fund (announced in September 2019).

The hub is forecast to add $100 million to the regional GDP over 15 years and bring 500 new full-time jobs to Hawke’s Bay. A final decision on whether it proceeds will be made in November 2020. At this stage there is a conditional sale and purchase agreement on the land.

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst says, “This will be a real game changer for Hawke’s Bay. Food and beverage products are a mainstay of our regional income, contributing 70% of regional gross domestic product every year. This facility will enable our industries to access the very best minds across the region and New Zealand to develop new products and new ways of doing things to build on that success.”

It’s expected that startups to medium-sized food-related businesses could make use of the hub to test new recipes or develop new products (that they can’t do while keeping up with production in their existing kitchens), research and trial new packaging ideas, or even shoot videos or make presentations to investors in the highly spec-ed environment.

One local innovator and case in point is The Apple Press, makers of the self-proclaimed “world’s best apple juice” and beverage manufacturer located in Whakatu, Hastings.

In 2014, the business accessed The Food Bowl in Auckland, part of the NZ Food Innovation Network (the nationwide network that Foodeast will be part of) to complete a feasibility study “around the appropriateness of the selected technology and assessment of the prototype formulations”.

The results supported a business case to develop and build the multi-million-dollar Whakatu factory that now markets products both nationally and internationally.

Spaces within Foodeast will be flexible with some parts permanently tenanted and others available for booking by industry and educational organisations for collaboration, demonstrations, events, and education and training.

A small Foodeast team will connect entities with product ideas to specialists able to mentor and collaborate to develop, test, and commercialise their products.

Foodeast will be owned and managed by an entity made up regional investors, including local government and private sector representatives.

Photo: Artist’s impression of Foodeast; subject to final design.

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