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When taking about Unique Hangis Ltd you could say it’s an Oamaru success story built from the ground up.

Founded and owned by Andrea McIvor, the company produces a range of pies, savouries and meals that use prime meat and organic vegetables cooked using traditional hangi methods.

Unique Hangis, as the company became known in 2011, originally started in Queenstown and focused on mobile catering with fire and rock.

When Ms McIvor relocated to Hampden in 2010 and reconsidered her business options, Unique Hangis was born and after gaining a foothold in the local market, now has products available around New Zealand.

She prepares the fillings for her pies, savouries and meals in her commercial kitchen at her property at Alma, in a purpose-built hangi pit that reaches temperatures of more than 220 degrees Celsius.

Fillings for pork, pork and apple, angus beef, lamb and mint and hangi pies are all produced there, before being chilled and sent to Bernies Bakery HQ in Timaru, where the filling is baked in scotch pastry, frozen and readied for distribution.

As well as pies, Ms McIvor sells meals at the Dunedin Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, makes them to order for people locally, and also caters for events such as weddings or Christmas functions.

When it came to cooking meat and vegetables in a hangi, she said it was all about heat and time.

“It’s about being patient and making sure you don’t cut corners. If you cut corners, it’s not going to be cooked.”

The cooking process took between six and eight hours – depending on the amount being cooked – and involved whole joints of meat and vegetables being placed into steel wire baskets lined with foil and cabbage leaves, placed in the pit and then lined with damp hessian sacks before being covered.

Producing fillings for between 400 and 600 pies a week on average was no easy task, but one she was able to handle with the two other staff who helped her out.

“I’m happy with where things are at. I don’t want to take on the bigger side of things. We have the facilities to increase the volume quite easily, but it’s about consistency. I’d like to see the product in every town in New Zealand. I’m trying to keep it small because I’m a mum first. I’m able to work from home, which is awesome.

“You’re fighting against the dollar pie regime – you’re fighting it for business, I’ve found people are willing to pay $5 retail for a pie when it’s good quality.”

Last weekend, Ms McIvor was heading to the Christchurch Food Show at Horncastle Arena.

Nearly 100 companies had their wares on show at the event with something for everyone’s palate on offer.

She planned to take about 1000 pies this year, and expected to see plenty of happy faces in the process.

“That’s the bit I really love: watching people’s faces when they bite into the pie and they say, ‘That’s just amazing’.

“Going to the show’s really worth it. The foot traffic you get through there is just amazing. If you get just 1% of them buying the product, you never know what might come of it.”