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Whipping down the road

Greytown’s Laughing Owl Fudge has been sold – with the wooden spoon passed a few hundred metres along the road.

Kylie Alexander, who started the handmade fudge business from her Greytown kitchen almost 10 years ago after moving home from Scotland, has sold to Alison Meadows, owner of Choice Fruit Products.

Meadows operates a commercial kitchen in historic Wakelin House on Greytown’s Main St, where she cooks up her range of chutneys, pickles, sauces and infused oils and seasonings.

Originally from rural Devon in England, Meadows emigrated to New Zealand with her husband and children to be near family almost 11 years ago. They arrived in Wairarapa in 2016, and Meadows bought Choice Fruit Products just over four years later.

In a plentiful artisan food market, Meadows has become a regular in the world of food shows, trade fairs and corporate gifts. She has more than 100 stockists New Zealand-wide and sells her products and gift hampers online, with a new website launching soon.

Meadows has a finance and retail background and worked for a bullion company in the UK.

“We dealt in gold and silver bars and coins – which would turn up from overseas in the regular post, in small brown unmarked boxes,” she said.

“No one knew we existed, as we didn’t have our company name above the door. The odd customer who was allowed to collect their order often turned up with over 30,000 British pounds in cash, which would take two of us nearly an hour to count.”

Meadows spent eight years running her own bridalwear shop and baking wedding and special occasion cakes.

Now resident in rural Carterton, she tries to grow as many of her ingredients as possible, including lemons and feijoas, and sources others locally. She is learning what works for her target market.

“I try to avoid too many brown products,” she said. “Colour is good – my capsicum and apricot chutney is probably my best seller, with the new apple, pear and plum catching up fast.

“My feijoa BBQ sauce is unique – you won’t find it anywhere else. The lemon pepper seasoning is made with our own real lemon zest, unlike the supermarket ones which are lemon essence and yellow food colouring.

“But when it comes to fudge, brown is good, with no artificial colours or preservatives.”

Meadows works alone in her Greytown commercial kitchen and travels around the country to markets and food shows, sometimes with help from her teenage children.

She won’t be changing the Laughing Owl Fudge recipe but plans to take it “nationwide” with her other products and introduce some additional packaging options.

“I love to source locally and New Zealand-wide. Unfortunately, Kylie had to source her biodegradable fudge bags with flat bottoms from France because there was nothing available in New Zealand.”

Alexander, a qualified chef who used her Greytown grandmother’s recipe for her original Laughing Owl Russian fudge, said she was “chuffed” the business was staying local.

“I must have made five or six thousand batches of fudge in almost 10 years. You could say I’m a bit lop-sided from all the stirring,” she laughed.

Over the years, Alexander has added local accents to her fudge, including chocolate, coffee, honey, lemon liqueur and lavender.

“I am very happy to have my home kitchen and house back, as there was fudge all over the place. I’ve been cooking since I was 17 and would now like to return to working as a teacher aide.”

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