Jo Kempton from Happy Belly Ferments. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

BECKIE WILSON

beckie.wilson@age.co.nz

What started as a hobby making fermented drinks at home for her children has evolved into a thriving local business.

Greytown’s Jo Kempton built her probiotic drinks business, Happy Belly Ferments, from the ground up.

It may only be two years old, but she has big goals.

She produces two drinks, Kombucha and ginger beer-flavoured Water Kefir.

Both are fermented probiotic drinks that are beneficial for the digestive system and gut due to the bacteria lactobacillus.

She recently won the Emerging Enterprising Rural Women award through Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ).

This is the first award Ms Kempton has entered, let alone won with her new drinks.

The business idea grew when a specialist suggested her son should have fermented drinks to help with his developmental coordination disorder.

“I first started making them as a health tonic for the family — they help with people’s immunity and digestion,” she said.

“Also, because my son has dyspraxia and specialists suggested that getting good probiotics into his tummy would help his health and behavioural issues.”

After giving the drinks away to friends and family, the positive feedback she got led to setting up the business.

She converted part of her home into a certified fermented drink-making factory.

The mother-of-two has gone from making one to two litres at her kitchen bench using measuring jugs to about 120 litres at a time using an automated pump filtration and bottling system.

Over the past year, traction for the drinks has grown significantly.

“I was just selling at local markets and delivering to people round Wairarapa — then some people suggested I needed retailers, so I approached Moore Wilson’s and they took them in all their stores, and Farro Fresh in Auckland.”

That was a big step for Ms Kempton who then employed a staff member after recognising that she needed more hands on deck to grow the business.

She was new to the concept of fermentation and did some online research to understand the art.

She has completed a certificate in small business management, and has drawn on her degree of marketing, economics and accounting.

Ms Kempton’s goal is having the probiotic drinks served on all Air New Zealand flights.

In the meanwhile, Ms Kempton has a busy summer ahead as the most popular time of the year for the delicious, fizzy drink.

Over the summer, she will aim to double production and increase the number of retailers across the region — “it’s quite a wide-ranging product, it appeals to a big market”.

Ms Kempton said she appreciated RWNZ recognised her emerging business.

The Tora Coastal Walk in Martinborough won the Agrisea New Zealand Love of the Land award, run by RWNZ.

The three-day fully catered walk along the coastline is run by Kiri Elworthy and Jenny Bargh.

Both award winners are two of four finalists vying for the Supreme Enterprising Rural Women award to be announced on November 18.