For a small country, New Zealand will have a big presence at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago on May 22-25. Eight companies will showcase signature New Zealand food products like grass-fed lamb, venison, and seafood, alongside innovative new entries to the U.S. beverage market such as all-natural, ready-to-pour cocktails.

In addition, the New Zealand Trade & Enterprise (NZTE) pavilion (booth #3947) will feature a tasting station with New Zealand chef Graham Brown preparing dishes using the fresh ingredients. Morsels offered for tasting will range from venison medallions with fennel seed crust to a selection of Kapiti cheeses.

NZTE North America Food and Beverages Sector Manager Kelly Duffy says the U.S. accounts for more than half of New Zealand’s food and beverage exports, at a value of $1.8 billion (U.S. dollars) annually.

“The United States is our second biggest trading partner,” Duffy says. “Demand for our food and beverage products, including meat, dairy, fish, fruits, and vegetables, as well as wine, beer, and spirits, is steadily increasing. American consumers and restaurants respond well to our environmental track record, the flavor of meat from our grass-fed, free-range cattle and sheep, and our award-winning, sustainably produced beverages.”

VnC Cocktails, an all-natural ready-to-pour cocktail that has been dominating global award competitions, will make its U.S. debut at the NRA Show. Launched 18 months ago in other international markets by the Auckland, New Zealand, company with the same name, the cocktails have also been grabbing attention for their fresh, pure taste, eye-catching packaging in 1-liter plastic bottles, and quirky branding. Seven different classic cocktail flavors, including Pacific Mai Tai and Pomegranate Cosmo, now dominate sales in the category in New Zealand against international big brand competition.

Monteith’s Brewing Company, which got its start as a family-owned brewery in Greymouth in 1868, will also be exhibiting for the first time at the NRA Show. The company’s craft beers include Monteith’s Black, Monteith’s Pilsner and Monteith’s Original Ale.

Other New Zealand exhibitors include:

Aotearoa Seafoods – Greenshell mussel products marketed under the Green Gold and Kono brands

Atkins Ranch – Fresh, naturally grown New Zealand lamb, frozen lamb patties and frozen lamb sausages

New Zealand King Salmon – New Zealand King Salmon, including cold smoked sliced salmon, salmon pastrami, fresh sashimi fillets and fresh/frozen salmon portions/fillets

The Lamb Company – Fresh and frozen New Zealand lamb and Cervena venison

This is the third year that NZTE, New Zealand government’s national economic development agency, has had a booth at the NRA Show.

Menu Innovations, News, NRA Show 2010