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Friday 03 December 2021

Kono seeks COO – not CEO – with Taulelei departure

27th September 2021 By Bridget O'Connell | | @foodtickernz

The parent company of Nelson-based food and beverage exporter Kono is looking to fill the newly created role of chief operating officer, instead of recruiting a new chief executive to replace Rachel Taulelei.

Hop Federation is one of Kono’s businesses.

Kerensa Johnston, chief executive of Kono owner Wakatū Incorporation, said the COO role would oversee all operations and performance at the food business, which employed around 500 people and produced annual revenue of around $90m exporting wine, seafood, fruit and fruit bars to more than 40 countries around the world.

“The new COO role replaces the Kono CEO role, and is consistent with the overall structure of Wakatū Group,” Johnston said.  

Kono’s brands included brewer Hop Federation, fruit snack company Annies and wine labels Tohu and Kono.

Wakatū’s other two divisions are whenua, or land, where 70% of its assets are held, and AuOra, a consumer-facing, health-solutions business with a focus on wellbeing and active ingredients obtained from the natural resources of Wakatū.

The new Kono role would report to Johnston and be part of the senior leadership team for Wakatū, which also included Iain Sheves, group general manager property and commercial, strategy and risk, and Miriana Stephens, executive director AuOra.

Johnston added: “The role of the COO focuses on operational performance and excellence, while continuing to grow the Kono brand.”

Former Kono chief executive Taulelei, announced in August she was stepping down mid-September after almost seven years leading the Māori-owned business to set up a new brand and business advisory firm with brand specialist Tabitha Harris.

She became CEO in November 2015, when Kono acquired her seafood distribution business Yellow Brick Road.

According to Linkedin, Taulelei’s new venture, Oho, “exists to awaken and enliven brands and businesses.”

“We seamlessly blend Indigeneity and Innovation; matauranga and modernity; whakapapa and future-forward; kaupapa and commerce. All through an indigenously hardwired lens.”



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