Kono: the treasured food basket


Aspiring to be the world’s best indigenous food and beverage producer, Kono and its values-driven approach to doing business is something to be admired.

Located at Te Tauihu o te Ika a Māui, the top of the South Island, for Māori company Kono love of the land and respect for the sea are guiding lights for the way it operates.

Integrating values from Te Ao Māori with its approach to business by combining traditional values with sustainable practices, its built an impressive portfolio covering seafood to beverages, which are exported to more than 40 countries worldwide.

Kono derives its name from the treasured food basket woven from the leaves of harakeke, flax. The kono has traditionally been a vessel for carrying, storing, sharing and giving food to whānau and esteemed manuhiri, guests, in a tradition of honour and hospitality.

Kono sits under the umbrella of parent company Wakatū, which is owned by approximately 4,000 descendants of the customary Māori land owners.

The owners of Wakatū come from the four iwi of Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Rārua, Ngāti Tama and Te Ātiawa, arriving in Te Tauihu in the early 1800s in a series of epic migrations.

Wakatū is a business of the land and sea. Its key portfolio spans whenua, and the management of orchards vineyards, land and marine farms where it grows and cultivates apples, pears, kiwifruit, hops and mussels.

Wakatū holds the belief that everything is interconnected, and each generation owes a duty to protect the whenua (land), awa (rivers), and moana (sea). Wakatū has developed Te Pae Tawhiti, a 500-year intergenerational plan which guides decisions and behaviours so that the taonga entrusted to the whānau of Wakatū is nutured and sustained for the generations to come. “Whatungarongaro te tangata toitū te whenua” – “As people disappear from sight, the land remains.”

Kono is its food and beverages arm, connecting the products grown across its farms, land and sea, to the world.

For Kono, the guiding light of Te Pae Tawhiti ensures they create, source and provide products that are ethically and sustainably created. Along with a drive to be the best indigenous food and beverage producer, Kono aims to share its brands with a community of people that appreciate their values-led approach.

And it’s well on its way as that is exactly what today’s consumers are looking for, brands with heart and care. What makes Kono special is that it is growing a business that lives and breathes its values, infusing them through its operations. That of manaakitanga, kindness and elevating others, kaitiakitanga, honour and duty to maintain balance between people and whenua, rangatiratanga, excellence, whanaungatanga, relationships and connection, hihiritanga, innovation and development, and pono, walking the talk.

Under the leadership of inspirational CEO Rachel Tauleilei, Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga, Ngāti Rārua, Kono is committed to these guiding principles while retaining a connection to tūrangawaewae, the identity and sense of belonging that makes Kono unique. 

The Kono range of brands includes:

Tohu and Kono wines

Tohu and Kono wines come from grapes harvested in Te Tauihu region. Its Whenua Matua vineyard is located on land significant to the whānau of the Wakatū in the Moutere Hills and its Whenua Awa vineyard is located in Marlborough’s Upper Awatere Valley. The wines showcase the distinctive, fresh, crisp flavours of this world-renowned wine region. Tohu Wines, the world’s first Māori owned and operated wine company, makes award-winning wine from grapes harvested in Marlborough.

It ranges Manaaki, the Whenua Series single vineyard wines, Kaumātua, a tribute to revered elders from the Wakatū whānau, and Rewa, a méthode traditionelle range.

Tohu Wines were selected to be served at former US President Barack Obama’s invitation-only dinner in Auckland in 2018. Kono Wines is a boutique range of five premium wines that includes a sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, chardonnay, pinot rosé and pinot noir that showcase the best of Te Tauihu in terms of flavour profile.

A native plant seed and cutting project on Whenua Awa is sustainable practice in action. Seeds and cuttings are collected from Aotearoa natives kānuka, mānuka, Marlborough rock daisy and heliohebe hulkeana, the New Zealand lilac. They’re then grown in a local nursery for 9 to 24 months and returned to the vineyard to be planted in specific locations, including a native-only planting area.

Annies fruit bars

For 33 years, Annies has been making fruit bars from nothing but real fruit. It recently updated its packaging and introduced a new fruit snacks range to fit today’s on the go lifestyles. This includes a New Zealand first, the Fruit Jerky. Annies are wholesome, healthy and easy snacks made from summer sun-ripened fruit, not concentrate and packed with natural energy.

Tutū cider

Tutū, colloquially meaning cheeky, is a refreshing, crisp, tasty cider with a mischievous twist. It is crafted from sun-ripened Fuji apples, grown on Kono ancestral lands in Nelson.

Greenshell™ Mussels

New Zealand greenshell mussels are popular locally and globally. Feeding whānau and manuhiri, guests, has always been part of Māori cultural heritage, and kaimoana has been a traditional source of food for coastal dwelling Iwi.

Isolation of New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds and pristine waters make ideal growing conditions for seafood. The majority of Kono Greenshell™ Mussels are hand raised in the cool, remote and unpopulated waters of the Marlborough Sounds where they are grown in long-line suspended ropes.

Yellow Brick Road

As a producer of premium wines and foods, it made sense for Kono to acquire multi-award winning food distribution company Yellow Brick Road, which caters to New Zealand’s top restaurants. Yellow Brick Road adheres to traditional, responsible fishing practices which honour and support seafood management and ocean sustainability focussing on line-caught fish and hand harvested seafood.

Kiwa Oysters

The underwater thermal springs of Northland’s Oronga Bay create a flourishing home for Kiwa Oysters. Grown from wild spat, this gift from the sea thrives in the isolated, gentle tidal waters of the Bay of Islands where they are hand-reared using industry best practice that manages and protects the natural environment.

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