Kabocha plant milk wins sixth international award

Hawke’s Bay squash grower Shane Newman has just racked up his sixth international win for Kabocha, his plant based milk beverage.

Made from export quality squash that can’t pass the beauty standard, Newman has developed a premium nutritional drink for Asian markets where buttercup squash or Kabocha, is revered for its nutritional qualities.

In December, Kabocha won a global award for the best plant based beverage at the World Plant Based Food Awards. In March, it received another two international food innovation awards – best health and wellness drink and best plant based beverage at the 2022 World Food Innovation Awards. In May, Kabocha picked up three further gongs at the Global Beverage Awards in London.

Newman says the drink has been on a bit of a winning streak.

“It’s been fantastic.”

Newman’s father started the family squash business around 30 years ago. The company is fully integrated, growing, packing and exporting squash into Asian markets of Japan, Korea, and China.

“Having that connection with the market and retailers is an advantage in terms of looking for opportunities and understanding consumer behaviour.

“Especially when developing stories and added value strategies for our business.

“We’ve spent a lot of time in the market, telling the New Zealand story, and driving value for producers back here in New Zealand. It drives a stronger relationship and connection with our customers.

“Squash’s health attributes are fantastic. Everyone knows the orange colour means it is very high in beta carotene, or Vitamin A. It really is a nutritional health food that our market understands.”

Newman says the consumer trend to plant milk and alternative proteins were of interest when exploring opportunities for his squash.

“That triggered an idea around Kabocha, taking it into a milk based beverage and catching all the health benefits of the fresh product into a drink.”

He recalled a New Zealand story from  a few years ago about the development of the world first avocado milk, itself an award winning beverage. Those innovators are now partners in the Kabocha milk venture, which will be manufactured in Whakatu by Milk Kitchen.

Developed through the Covid period, Kabocha milk has received funding from the Sustainable Future Fibres Fund.

Although reluctant to talk production specifics, Newman says the squash goes through a UHT process and the flavour profile responds well to heating.

Newman is now working with numerous investors, to scale the business and putting commercial production in place.

“We’ll have product going into Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan; the markets that fit the consumer profile that we’re looking for.”

He says 2022 will be “busy”, and will be travelling to Japan shortly, getting out into the market and telling the Kabocha story. Newman will leverage existing retailer relationships to secure the first listings for Kabocha in Asia.

Kabocha plant milk:

  • Fully vegan certified plant milk
  • Rich in Vitamin A
  • Carotene
  • Minerals and vitamins
  • Shelf stable
  • 15 month life