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Spicy vegan sausage crowned winner

22 November 2019

Spicy vegan sausage crowned winner at 2019 FoodStarter competition

A vegan sausage has sizzled its way to the top of the 2019 FoodStarter competition in Christchurch, in an impressive display of South Island food innovation dominated by a plant-based and vegan theme.

The ‘Bambina’ sausage was one of 121 entries to the FoodStarter competition, a partnership between Foodstuffs South Island and the Ministry of Awesome (MoA), based at the Te Ōhaka Centre for Growth and Innovation, at Ara Institute. Over 90 per cent of entries had a health, environment and dietary awareness focus, with four of the top five products being vegan.

The winning Italian-style sausage was created by Ananda Simply Wholefoods founders Fernando Gutierrez and Marita Lopez, after they felt there was a gap in the market for a tasty vegan sausage that wasn’t trying to imitate meat. “When we first arrived in New Zealand from Argentina seven years ago, we realised there was a gap in the market for a good, high protein, plant-based product.”

The Foodstarter 2019 Pressure Cooker final was judged on Wednesday 20th November at Foodstuffs South Island HQ in Christchurch by Foodstuffs South Island Chief Executive Steve Anderson, Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer Marian Johnson, Editor-in-chief, Lifestyle & Style at Stuff NZ Geoff Collett, Head of Business Development FoodSouth Tracey Sheehy, and MYOB marketing manager Krissy Sadler-Bridge.

All the judges agreed Ananda’s vegan sausage was something special. Foodstuffs South Island CEO Steve Anderson, says, “All the top five entries showed stunning innovation, but Ananda Simply Wholefoods vegan Bambina sausage was exceptional. You can’t tell it’s plant-based – we thought there must be some kind of meat in there, but there’s definitely not. The balance of flavours and textures make it a truly worthy winner.”

Fellow judge Marian Johnson, Chief Awesome Officer at Ministry of Awesome says it’s the first vegetarian sausage she’s had that stands up to a traditional meat sausage. “I often buy vegetarian sausages and I’ve tried many, but this was amazing – it actually tasted like a lovely spicy pork sausage,” she says. “It held together really well and had the kind of texture you’d expect from a good sausage. It was an incredibly tough competition, and we saw an outstanding display of innovation, invention and passion from all five of our finalists.”

Gutierrez and Lopez both grew up watching their parents cook and share food with family and friends, and believe vegan products will increasingly become part of the family food landscape. “Marita and I have extended family all through Europe as well as Argentina; the idea of food as a way to bring people together is a common thread all over the world, including New Zealand,” says Gutierrez. “New Zealand is all about barbecues and sharing plates, and more people are looking for alternatives to meat, which the Bambina is. It’s slightly spiced with fennel seeds and paprika, is lovely and chewy, and gets crispy when it’s shallow-fried.”

Although the Bambina looks and cooks much like a meat sausage, there’s none of the grit or meaty flavour found in some vegan and vegetarian options on the market. “We never wanted to make something that was pretending to be meat,” he says. “This is not pretend meat, either in looks or smell.”

The concentration on plant-based and locally sourced ingredients was very much a running thread at the FoodStarter competition, which is in its second year. “The entries showed just how impactful the current trend for plant-based and vegan is,” says Johnson. “We’re in the early adopter phase at the moment, but we are seeing a lot of startups in that area.”

The FoodStarter competition aims to identify the most innovative and promising food or beverage product in New Zealand, and assist the winner to bring it to production. The $75,000 business incubation prize package includes product development from FoodSouth, brand and design guidance from Strategy Advertising, business acceleration support at Te Ōhaka - Centre for Growth & Innovation at Ara Institute; guidance from the team at MYOB; and the biggest prize of all - guaranteed placement of the winning product in all New World supermarkets across the South Island – a prize Gutierrez and Lopez say is life-changing.

“This will change our direction, and that’s exactly what we want,” says Gutierrez, who worked as a full-time landscaper until two months ago, before moving to part-time hours so he could concentrate on making sausages. “Until now we’ve sold our sausages at farmers markets and to some small stores and restaurants, but now we have a lot to do!”

FoodStarter 2019 finalists

• Winner: Ananda Simply Wholefoods vegan sausage
• The Sheep Milk Supply Group with Baa2 and BaaBuzz sheep milk yoghurt
• Good Puds – plant-based prebiotic pudding pots to improve gut health
• Grater Goods – plant-based pastrami
• Porpy & Pinky’s vegan Kiwi Onion Dip

For more information, visit


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