More South Island food manufacturers should offer ‘immersive experiences’ such as seeing food in its natural state, catching it at source or being involved in cooking it to attract food tourists from China and other countries, the Tourism Industry Association New Zealand believes.
Experiences can range from eating at New Zealand restaurants, meeting the producers and learning about how food is produced in factory tours, chief executive Chris Roberts says.
Food tourism is shaping up to be a major industry in this country, and manufacturers and farmers should host more tours, boosting their profits and general tourism, Roberts says. A wide range of food and wine producers already offer factory tours, such as Cadbury and Speights in Dunedin and Monteith’s Brewery in Greymouth, and specialised food and wine tours are common.
However, it is farms and factories making cheese that one academic is urging manufacturers to open to the public. Lincoln University PhD candidate Francesc Fuste Fome says Canterbury and South Island cheese merchants in particular could benefit from cheese’s “pulling power,” and the answer is factory tours.
“Tourists might visit New Zealand for up to 20 days but not visit dairy farms or factories to see the link between milk and cheese-making,” he says. “People want a sense of local culture, and cheese is part of the identity of South Island landscapes.”
Farmers markets sold most of Canterbury’s craft cheese as well as butter, yoghurt and milk, but cheese attracted tourists in large numbers in the North Island at spots such as Puhoi Valley Café and Cheese Store in Auckland.
Opening farms and factories, Fome says, could attract tourists onto the South Island’s food trails. Lincoln University opens its gates to its commercial dairy farm each year, offering an opportunity to get up close and learn about the transformation of “sunshine into food,” the university says.
Peanut-butter makers Pic’s run 30-minute tours through its Nelson site, and the Tui Brewery experience is world renowned in Mangatainoka in Tararua. One of the country’s favourite chocolate brands – Porirua-based Whittaker’s – turns away tourists hoping for a look through the premises because of lack of space.
In Gordonton, in the Waikato, a one-time cheese factory has been operating as Candyland for more than quarter of a century, and was set up as a tourist attraction.