The Corn Master
Amaize popcorn is manufactured right here in Tāmaki on Panmure’s Queens Rd.
Flavoured popcorn is becoming more and more popular these days. It’s a regular at food festivals across Auckland and walking down Queen St in central Auckland you’ll often come across thetempting aroma of sweet, fresh popcorn.
Arif Master, founder of Amaize popcorn, started his journey towards producing flavoured popcorn with another corn product – fresh steamed sweetcorn flavoured with spices. “I came here from India in 2006 with a business in mind I had seen in other parts of the world,” he says. He finally got started in 2011 with a product he called Kiwi Corn in a Cup.
The first market he went to was a gala at St Marks School in Pakuranga. It was a great success, as spiced, steamed sweetcorn is a well-known product throughout Asia. From there the business grew, and he and his wife Mahera got a following at events and shows across Auckland. “This was going well, so we thought, let’s have a shop.” They set up in a small shop on Panmure’s Queens Rd, with a larger space out the back for manufacturing.
When they first got started, people would come to Panmure especially to buy their steamed sweetcorn. But they soon realised selling the product in a shop rather than at markets was not viable as there was a lot of wastage.
Popcorn, which could be kept for up to six months, made much more sense. At the end of 2016, Arif decided to give up the street front shop, keep the factory out back, and move into the wholesale market.
Arif also works as a merchandiser for supermarkets, so he used that experience to grow the wholesale business. “I got a break in Fresh Choice Glen Eden in 2017,” he says.
From there, he has built up to supplying more than 15 stores, including Pak’nSave in Glen Innes and Botany. “All my contacts were developed from my job [in merchandising]. They try to support me as much as they can.”
For now, Arif and Mahera still have part-time jobs. Arif works four nights a week from 3am to 8.30am, and Mahera works in retail three days a week. They do all the manufacturing themselves, coming in to the factory several times a week to prepare whatever flavours are running low. Of the 38 flavours the couple produce, churro caramel and salted caramel are their most popular.
They’ve split the workload down the middle and take responsibility for producing two categories each. “Candied and gourmet corn is her department, flavoured and savoury is my department,” says Arif.
The couple want to grow their gourmet category and are aiming to supply all the highend grocery stores in Auckland. One day soon, they hope they can leave their part-time jobs and focus all their energies on their business. “Within a year we should be able to do that.”
Amaize popcorn is available online at amaize.co.nz and at stores throughout Auckland, including Pak’nSave Glen Innes.