Hot, tasty sauces go far


Ever since he can remember, Chris Cullen has eaten exotic and spicy food thanks to his Fiji-born mother Viki.

Now, his business dreams inspired by those childhood experiences are being realised as award-winning food business Culley’s cracks the export market with ATEED’s help.

Culley’s specialises in hot sauces and flavoured salts and in early 2014, achieved two significant milestones: a national distribution deal with Progressive Enterprises; and cracked the export market – with a distribution deal into Australia.

Following his days taking part in an amateur chilli sauce-making group at Vodafone, Chris established Culley’s in 2011 and – armed with a professional brand and label –took his hot sauces to the Clevedon Farmers Market. He still has a stand at the market, but he has hugely expanded his horizons.

ATEED South’s business growth specialists have provided Chris with showcasing opportunities at the Food Show and Taste Festival connected him with a local chilli supplier and mentors with food exporting experience, helped him gain Business Growth vouchers from NZTE.

He moved his production into The FoodBowl – Te Ipu Kai, a joint venture involving ATEED and Callaghan Innovation, where he has tested and produced numerous hot sauce varieties in 150ml bottles.

Culley’s sauces have won awards in New Zealand and in the US (at Louisiana and New York hot sauce expos and festivals), and the company won ‘Best Emerging Small Business’ in the Westpac South Auckland Business Awards.

In addition to the new Countdown deal, Culley’s supplies outlets including Farro Fresh, Nosh Food Market and Sabato gourmet stores and selected New World supermarkets. The company is also following up inquiries from Malaysia.

After developing and testing his product at The FoodBowl, Chris oversees a 12-hour production run every three to six weeks, bringing in a processing team of up to eight including his mother and two brothers.

Culley’s is one of The FoodBowl’s most active customers, and has increased production volumes nearly six-fold.  “I can’t sing the praises (of The FoodBowl) enough,” says Chris. “The scalability, the certification, the equipment, the staff. The benefits there are amazing.”

“When buyers hear we operate from The FoodBowl, they know production capacity is not an issue. The FoodBowl has catapulted Culley’s to where it is now,” says Chris.


Photo: Founder Chris Cullen with his award-winning hot sauces