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Pete’s Natural Hemp Drinks

I told you all about Pete’s Natural Drinks and the owners of the business a while ago but they have launched a new drink product that I think you should know about.

Marleen and Pete Suy (Photo- Braden Fastier – Stuff & Nelson Mail)

Marleen and Pete invited me to visit their production facility a few days ago to see for myself just how they make their refreshing liquid deliciousness, but before I tell you about my visit and the new drink range let’s have a little recap about Pete, Marleen and their wonderful Pete’s Natural drinks business.

Pete’s Natural is a small family-owned business based in Motueka and they produce a range of natural, non-alcoholic drinks that are made using about 50% less sugar than other popular brands on the shelves, the products are also fair trade and Pete and Marleen use as many local ingredients as they possibly can.

Marleen says “we support local growers because we believe Fair Trade starts at home. Everything we produce is made from products from, and made in, New Zealand using only natural ingredients.

“There’s no additives, no concentrates from overseas, no preservatives or artificial colours or flavours, no hidden nasties. All our drinks are made with freshly squeezed juice from spray-free fruits sourced from all over New Zealand.”

Marleen and Pete call that “Fair Trade At Home”. “We opted for local and freshly squeezed fruit after learning that chemicals are used to stabilize concentrates.”

She told me that as examples the feijoas they use come from Appleby, lemons are mainly sourced from the Nelson – Tasman district and from Hawkes Bay, blackcurrants from Tapawera while chillies, limes and hops come from Nelson.

Hops? “Yes hops, we use them to add flavour and taste components like bitterness to balance the sweetness of the drinks.

“Many of our drinks incorporate hops, as well as helping balance the flavours in each recipe, hops are chock-full of antioxidants and are known for their relaxing and unique health benefits. Our drinks are brewed the traditional way, this means they are lightly fermented.”

Pete and Marleen were pioneers in the boutique, quality soft drink market when they first launched a drink with low or no sugar, “when we started no one was thinking about sugar content but now it seems to be the most important thing for many people but we always wanted to make drinks that are full of natural flavours, that taste great and are good for you.”

Their beverages all contain 30% – 50% less sugar than many leading brands, “we have always added less sugar so while other soft drink producers are developing lower sugar drinks we are just carrying on as we always have. We add less than 5% Fair Trade organic raw sugar to our drink recipes, they tick all the right boxes for being healthy and that means we didn’t need to change our recipes and flavours to meet the demand for low-added-sugar drinks.”

As well as working with as many local and New Zealand suppliers as they possibly can Pete’s Natural also has a strong focus on sustainability, Marleen told me “sustainability starts at home and we believe a business needs to help its local region be sustainable too and that’s one of the key reasons we work with locals wherever we can, we are also about to install solar panels to power the factory and have been driving an electric vehicle for our day-to-day running around for over a year.”

Sustainability is also a key reason they are changing to a new bottle shape for their drinks, starting with the new range of hemp and cider vinegar drinks. The new bottles are produced in Auckland at OI Glass, the bottle was designed by Auckland University students and they are made from up to 70% recycled glass.

“We were the first in New Zealand to use this bottle, they have called it ‘infinite bottle’ and we are in the process of changing all our products to the new bottle. The shape of the bottle means there is less wasted space in the cartons so we aren’t shipping air, we can get more product in the same space in a container, sustainability is top-of-mind in everything we do.”

A few months ago Pete’s Natural added sparkling water to their range, Marleen says “lots of cafes were asking for it, they wanted another locally bottled option so we decided to meet the demand.”

As to the new drinks, Pete and Marleen refer to them as functional beverages, “a lot of people want something to eat and drink that is beneficial to their health, the use of hemp in food and drinks was only legalised in New Zealand last year and while people think it is trendy right now it does have a lot of health benefits. It’s a nutrient rich seed, but it doesn’t always taste great and that is where Pete has weaved his magic.

Marleen told me hemp can have a very earthy flavour but “Pete has developed a recipe that takes the hemp seed and creates an infusion that we add to our drinks; there’s no added sugar because it’s sweetened with manuka honey and that has great health benefits too so we have really tried to be ahead of market demand for hemp products by creating something that actually tastes good as well as being good for you.”

At Pete’s Natural Pete and Marleen are always looking at different options to improve and grow their business, “part of that is looking at what is in the market and what people are asking for and then meeting the demand with an innovative product, our passion is non-alcoholic boutique drinks that we want to be entirely natural, Pete can’t stop playing with recipes and different flavours.”

Everything they make and do is constantly being reviewed; from the range of drinks, the packaging and even to how they power their factory and the cars they drive, they are always looking to innovate.

When Pete’s Natural launched their Sparkling Hemp and Manuka drink, they were the first to market in New Zealand.

The other functional beverage they recently launched is Switchel, it’s an Apple Cider Vinegar drink with Manuka Honey and Lemon juice with every component they use in the drink coming from Nelson.

Marleen told me Switchel is an age-old drink that appears to have been originally developed by woodsmen in British America back in the 1700’s. “It’s a drink made with apple cider vinegar, ginger and a variable sweetener and it’s becoming popular again.”

To me these guys are true artisan producers that are turning their beautiful, natural and health conscious drinks into a sustainable business, a business that sustains them, their staff, their local suppliers and the environment. This is a business I think every person in this region can be proud of and their drinks should be in every drinks’ chiller in the region. Sure, they aren’t as cheap as fizzy-in-a-can but the product is a lot better for you in a number of ways.

Published in the Nelson Mail 11.12.19

I have been writing a regular wine column for The Nelson Mail newspaper since 2000.

Unfortunately the column space is not big enough to include my thoughts on all of the many wines I taste. Hopefully this blog will fix that. It also gives me somewhere to archive the many columns I write. I will also include some favourite recipes from my dearly beloved who loves cooking and of course because wine and food simply go together. I will also point you in the direction of upcoming events and websites I think are great. Enjoy, Neil

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