Public Summary

Principal investigator: Reni Wereta-Gargiulo, Kiwi Kai Nelson
High-Value Nutrition funding: $50,000


Food and beverage company Kiwi Kai Limited has developed Atutahi, a lightly carbonated range of drinks using Aotearoa New Zealand native leaf (Horopito, Kumarahou and Kawakawa). This project will:

  • undertake and initiate market and consumer research for Aotearoa New Zealand native leaves Horopito, Kumarahou and Kawakawa derived carbonated drinks
  • review the regulatory landscape and options for commercialising these products
  • investigate new product development

Atutahi has a contract with local brewer Kombucha Bros who are their MPI approved manufacturer. Kiwi Kai Limited supply the leaf, syrups and labels for Kombucha Bros to make the drinks.

This project is based on whanaungatanga (collaboration) and tino rangatiratanga (self-determination) – values held strongly by Kiwi Kai Ltd. The project also enables Kiwi Kai Limited to combine mātauranga Māori practices with western science to lead, create and deliver high-value New Zealand native leaf derived beverages.

Atutahi is a lightly carbonated range of drinks using New Zealand native leaves.

Horopito, Kumarahou and Kawakawa are hand harvested dried and stored. The leaves are grown naturally in the New Zealand environment.

Kawakawa and Horopito are grown on whānau lands in the Marlborough Sounds. Kumarahou is sourced commercially from whānau in the Coromandel.

There are no sprays or pesticides used. Syrup for the Kawakawa and Kumarahou drinks are manufactured by Barkers Geraldine. New Zealand blackcurrant concentrate which is mixed in the Horopito drink is sourced from New Zealand blackcurrants and Tasman Bay boysenberry concentrate is sourced locally.

Research Team

Reni Wereta-Gargiulo

Reni Wereta-Gargiulo

Reni is an innovative entrepreneur with a passion for bringing the best kiwi kai to New Zealand and the world. She has developed three successful food and beverage brands out of Nelson: Atutahi, Kiwi Kai and Kai Fusionz which are woven together with a tikanga Māori vision.

Entrepreneurial skills inherited from ancestors on her mother’s Pakeha side (O’Carroll) coupled with her Māori values and heritage of Ngaati Ruanui, Nga Rauru and Te Atiawa on her father’s side are the foundations of her business ethos.

Reni and her family are focused on further understanding the use of traditional Maori ingredients to improve the nutritional value and wellness benefits of their brands, as well as helping to educate New Zealand and the world.

Rebecca Assice

Rebecca Assice


Rebecca is an entrepreneur and ex-management consultant with a passion for helping businesses grow and expand. She has established several successful businesses in the Asia Pacific (Virtual Room Asia Pacific and Escape Hunt Australia / New Zealand) and now leverages her experience and consulting background to advise businesses on growing and improving.

Rebecca is a proud Kiwi, based in Singapore since 2011. Here she is the Vice President of the New Zealand Chamber Singapore.

With her decade-long corporate career in Australia, Rebecca is uniquely positioned to help New Zealand businesses succeed in the Asia Pacific.

Michelle Cubitt

Michelle Cubitt


Michelle is an independent regulatory consultant operating under ‘Smart Regulatory Services,’ providing simple strategic and technical solutions.

Michelle has over 10 years of experience in global regulatory activities in all relevant national and international markets (Asia/Pacific, Europe and North America) and across all product categories (supplements, foods, cosmetics, and medical devices).