Hunter Gatherer entrepreneur and baker, Julena Nola .

Have you ever day-dreamed about healthy cakes, muffins and cookies that still taste like the real thing? Julena Nola did – and she’s done something about it.

Introducing Hunter Gatherer Gourmet: a small company specialising in gluten free, dairy free, grain free, low-sugar baking mixes that would, they claim, fool even a cake connoisseur into thinking they’re the real deal.

The product of an idyllic upbringing on a fruit orchard in West Auckland, Hunter Gatherer Gourmet’s Founder, Julena, grew up surrounded by food in its purest form. As the daughter of first-generation Croatian immigrants, Julena remembers big family gatherings focussed around the meals produced by her mother and grandmother – the two people she credits most for fuelling her passion for baking.

When Julena’s mother was diagnosed with diabetes, their shared love for baking – including a variety of classic Croatian desserts – was jeopardised. Julena wanted to be able to bake with her mother but was concerned about what sugar would do to her health.

At the same time, Julena, a mother herself, observed a health trend beginning to emerge in New Zealand: mothers struggling to bridge the gap between health and taste when it came to feeding their kids. Julena set herself the ambitious challenge of creating recipes that were nutritious, healthy and great tasting, with her mother at the helm of the tasting panel. After subjecting her family to many failed attempts at healthy cakes, she struck gold – creating a mix that tasted like real cake, minus all the nasties.

The versatility of Hunter Gatherer Gourmet’s products is their key point of difference. From one cake mix, customers can bake cookies, muffins, loaves, slices, or cakes – they are extremely customisable and can serve almost any baking purpose. Adding fruit, chocolate, nuts, nut butters, flavoured oils, or essences to any of the mixes allows customers to tailor their baking as needed and encourages them to get creative in the kitchen.

Julena’s favourite add-in is a range of spices to her plain vanilla mix, which results in a fragrant gingerbread loaf. She also loves adding seasonal fruits to her plain mixes to create fruit crumble cakes. In the process of creating her healthy mixes, Julena decided to stay away from the ingredients we often see in popular “raw cakes” –  coconut oil, dates, and large amounts of nuts – as she found that they were often too rich for children to enjoy.Hunter Gatherer Gourmet cake mixes are whole food focussed, meaning they have minimal ingredients and are largely unprocessed.

Julena sees sustainability as a core pillar of her business, which is why Hunter Gatherer Gourmet offer refill jars and refill packs for its vanilla and chocolate baking mixes – working hard to provide customers with plastic-free options. Not only do the refill jars allow customers to skip plastic packaging, they’re also considerably cheaper than boxed options.

The mixes come in 900g jars and bags – allowing bakers to pick and choose the amount of mix they want to bake with at one time. Additionally, a recently launched subscription service now offers customers the chance to have Hunter Gatherer gourmet mixes delivered to their front door every three-to-four weeks, with no delivery charges.  

Refill jars and subscription services have both emerged as a result of customer communication – something Julena sees as vitally important to the success and longevity of her business. Julena speaks with her customers regularly, and is quick to implement their requests – earning her a dedicated, loyal customer base. Hunter Gatherer Gourmet thrived during the Covid-19 lockdown, selling more mixes in the four weeks of lockdown than in the previous four months.

While Hunter Gatherer Gourmet already has a strong following, Julena has lofty goals for the business and would like to see it become a household name – “the Betty Crocker of the healthy baking world!”. The business has ambitions to export to Australia by the end of 2020.

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