Ideas, ambitions and dreams are important! Following the success of our Women In Food & Drink Awards for 2024, we continue our commitment to showcasing the magnificent women who work to drive the evolution of our New Zealand food-and-drink culture. Inspiring people can be found everywhere and influence comes in many forms. It can be found in someone who has an established brand and access to a massive number of people and also in someone who works quietly in the background to instigate positive change. Ultimately, they are all impressive. We encourage women working within our diverse food-and-drink landscape to join us at – together our voice will be stronger.

Sustainability / Waste

Brianne West may have spent the best part of her career focussed on the ‘better for you, better for the planet’ beauty brand Ethique, but now she has turned her sights on revolutionising the drinks industry. This biochemist turned entrepreneur, who has been named a ‘Top 100 Global Thinker’, has launched Incrediballs – a way, she says, to cut the global use of single-use plastic drink bottles by tens of millions each year. The product (concentrated effervescent drink mixers in tablet form which you drop into water) is a social enterprise with real relevance to the hospitality industry; in Aotearoa, we use almost 2 billion single-use plastic drinks containers annually. “The journey of Incrediballs has been exhilarating if slightly stressful,” says Brianne. “But I’m excited about growing the company to a scale where it starts to genuinely have an impact.” With the development stage of the start-up now behind her, Brianne can’t wait to introduce the product in a range of flavours she feels sure will resonate with most consumers. “We’ve nailed the packaging and design and are starting to build a very supportive community.” The business will be based in Christchurch, but this waste warrior is amped to take it to the world. Watch this space.

Disability Education / Training

As a special needs transition teacher, Sarah Dann-Hoare understood full well the difficulties people with mild to moderate disabilities could have finding a job when they left school. Her mission to support them led to opening New Zealand’s first training café for neurodiverse young adults, in Takapuna. The programme was so successful that, in partnership with Air New Zealand, a second Flourish Café opened in Auckland’s CBD late last year – so Sarah now has trainees and interns on both sides of the bridge. Through Project Employ, they come for a six-month stint where they are supported by job coaches and get to experience all aspects of the business. They learn the basics of how to talk to new people, take on new tasks, make suggestions and speak up for themselves. “It’s incredible to watch them grow in self-confidence,” she says. “They leave with entry-level hospitality skills and, importantly, the self-belief that they are employable.” As if the satisfaction of seeing the results of this initiative wasn’t enough, Sarah has more to be proud of. Recently, she was recognised with the Paul Harris Fellow Award from Rotary Takapuna for her many years working in the disability sector, including her role in establishing Project Employ and the Flourish Cafés. But it’s Sarah who feels fortunate: “I’m so proud of these amazing, hard-working young people who inspired me to open a café that provides a stepping stone to employment. I am lucky to be able to meet so many of them through the training programme.”


Product Development / Entrepreneurship

Watching her grandma cook, and sometimes taking a sneaky taste before the dish was ready, is what brought Kavita Anand to a place where she dreamed of turning her childhood curiosity into packaged happiness. The 100 per cent natural, chilled, fresh curry pastes she creates under the Kavita’s Kitchen brand simplify this culinary magic, so that busyness does not translate to blandness at mealtimes. Kavita, who was born and raised in Singapore, loves her work – and why wouldn’t she? Her grandma’s kitchen was her playground and now she gets to innovate and experiment for a job. “Life’s too short for stressed- out chefs,” she says. “My role isn’t only about cooking; it’s about fostering traditions and promoting healthy eating.” Picking up awards for her plant-based artisan products (which contain no preservatives, additives or fillers), including gold for both the Rogan Josh and Thai Zing curry pastes at the Outstanding Food Producer Awards, has been a bonus. But her true reward is nurturing the joy of cooking. “Who needs takeout when you can create meals in minutes?” The company, which began in her own kitchen in Wellington with her slow-cooked pastes, has expanded into artisanal stockists and supermarkets. “Seeing people bond over our recipes fills me with pride and gratitude.”

Catering / Consultancy

Tasty not tricky is food consultant and chef/ caterer Jess Ormsby’s motto – and she lives intentionally by it. Her culinary creativity is in full flight in the gluten-free, whole foods and plant-based space and she’s passionate about sharing her ideas with others through her Instagram account and workshops. Her mission in life is to make good food accessible and achievable to everyday folk and to give businesses and brands that have a sustainable, ethical voice a platform. “I love to connect with members of local and global communities who seek support to make and eat clean and simple foods,” she says. Whether she is creating a budget-friendly menu of the week for her followers, hosting a workshop or crafting recipes for her food-industry clients, Jess, who is self-taught, puts aroha into every meal she makes. Inspiring others to greater wellbeing is what it is all about and she’s never prouder than when her creations encourage families to eat better and healthier. Having launched a daily food blog during the COVID lockdowns, she’s since built up her brand, and is grateful that she has been able to turn her passion into a business. “I love the worldwide engagement with everyone from Michelin-starred chefs to home-based domestic goddesses,” she says. “I’m excited that what I do can be relatable to everyone.” @jess.ormsby

Food Technology / Sustainability

She calls herself a ‘reimagineer’ but Natalie Martin could little have imagined that she would become something of a sustainability pioneer when she completed her Bachelor of Food Technology at Massey University in 2011. The industry has darted ahead since then and what began as a career creating a range of food-and-drink products for some of Aotearoa’s biggest brands, has transformed into a leading- edge role with sustainability as its focus. “Working in Hawke’s Bay with a lot of primary-industry producers sparked a personal interest in using every part of the product,” Natalie explains. Now, in her dual role as Materials Innovation Manager at 3R Group and a food- technology consultant, based in Hastings, she uses her background in circular-economy principles and product stewardship to fuel innovation and complementary solutions within the food-and-drink industry, among others. “The pandemic and Cyclone Gabrielle highlighted the importance of being able to utilise all of the food we grow here in New Zealand and the need to be mindful of climate-change implications in the decisions we are making,” says Natalie. Working with a company that lost a third of its orchard to the cyclone, to develop a product using a part of the fruit that would once have proved onerous to dispose of, thus creating a new revenue stream, has been one of the most satisfying projects of her career.

Are you driving a project for change or do you want to shine a light on inspiring women who work within our diverse food-and-drink landscape? Are you interested in joining and building a community to connect all women in food and drink across the country? Head to and become a member of a group that will help us to network, educate and support each other as we share ideas and knowledge.