Seafood line goes down swimmingly with Kiwi Kai

Kiwi Kai founder Chris Poipoi never wanted to own a shop. Now he’s got two of them. This isn’t an accident however, rather part of his ambitious plans to create a food empire.

“My plans are nationwide, Trans-Tasman, then global,” Poipoi said.”I wasn’t interested in owning a shop.”

His journey from one outlet on Rotorua’s Amohau St to world domination, via Pak n Save, New World and the Mad Butcher, has been steam powered in its first four years – steam pudding powered.

He had already got his famed steamed pudding into select Mad Butcher outlets, selling $70,000 worth last Christmas alone. Poipoi said they have proved so popular that both Pak n Save and New World have requested product for their outlets across the country.

He said gearing up to supply the puddings on such a massive scale was instrumental in his expansion plans.

“It was a test case of scale and potential that told me it’d work,” he said. “I know now how to scale.”

Having satisfied himself in the ability to produce product on a large scale, while maintaining integrity, Poipoi had identified one further problem in his ambition to transform Kiwi Kai into a global Maori food brand.

He didn’t have a seafood line. “I’d always known we needed that line,” he said.

He found the solution in Nelson. That’s where Reni Gargiulo​ was winning awards for her seafood sold from a market stall. She took some persuading however.

Gargiulo said Poipoi first approached her in September last year with an offer to become part of the Kiw Kai whanau.

“I started buying his product, but he didn’t buy mine,” she said. “At the time I didn’t know he didn’t like seafood.”

Impressed with her food – and her ambition – Poipoi asked Gargiulo three times to become part of Kiwi Kai before she agreed. It was Poipoi’s vision, and ambition, that proved crucial in changing her mind.

“I sat back and thought how far have I got in six months, and how far had he got? What have I got to lose.”

Poipoi and Gargiulo are now selling the first Kiwi Kai seafood lines at his Rotorua store, her signature raw fish dish, with plans for more to be rolled out here and across their wider distribution network.

She will also run the Nelson branch of Kiwi Kai, set to open in July, which will also act as their South Island hub.

“It’s a combining of expertise. She has lines I needed. It’s a real win-win,” Poipoi said.

Gargiulo agrees.

“It suits what I already do and has potential for growth in the South Island,” she said. “I want to get Nelson completed and move to Queenstown.”

This article was written by Ben Bathgate for and first appeared on May 29th, 2017.
Read the original article here.

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