Stories told in green and gold

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As interest in Australian made and owned products continues to grow, manufacturers are looking at ways to share their heritage.

By Hailey Settineri.

Earlier this year federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce announced plans to mandate the use on all food products of a symbol that graphically indicates the Australian content of the product.

The idea is that a symbol such as a bar or pie chart would, at a glance, help consumers understand what portion of the product is Australian.

The measurement would be based on ingredients rather than the packaging or cost of production, which is the current ruling on the use of ‘Australian Made’ or ‘Made in Australia’ descriptions.

At the time of writing, the plans are still being discussed with industry and consumers and a further submission is due to go to cabinet in August.

Australian Made Campaign CEO Ian Harrison, who has been in discussions with both the Government and food industry about country-of-origin labelling, says the initial proposal is likely to change through the consultation process, but he is hopeful the outcome will satisfy consumers and industry alike.

“Originally the Government’s intention was that this new symbol would be on the front of the package, but I suspect that they’re probably reviewing this commitment following discussions with the industry,” he said. “The reality is that on many food products there’s a limited amount of space available. I think the Government’s new intention would probably be that the label just simply has to appear, rather than prescribing that it has to be on the front of the pack.”

A key criteria that will need to be determined for the emblem to go ahead is the range to be depicted. Australian Made Campaign is calling for four ranges comprising small amounts of Australian ingredients – less than 10 per cent, less than 50 per cent, greater than 50 per cent and greater than 90 per cent.

“That’s the kind of range we think consumers would be satisfied with,” Mr Harrison said. “Some consumers will say ‘No, we want it to be 10 per cent pieces’, some will want it to be five per cent. But you’ve got to be realistic with the costs of labelling and the uncertainties in the supply chain.”

While it is unknown at this stage whether the proposed symbol will be incorporated with the Australian Made, Australian Grown (AMAG) logo, Mr Harrison predicts a strong future for the green and gold kangaroo.

“It may form part of the Government’s proposed content symbol and that would have a significant impact on the scale of this campaign,” he said. “In any event, it’s been in the marketplace providing consumers with really important information for nearly 30 years, so we’re comfortable that there’ll be a very strong and ongoing role for the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo.”

The AMAG logo covers a broad spectrum of food and non-food products. Mr Harrison says there has been strong take-up of the logo in the processed food sector in particular, and continued growth in the number of licensees.

“It’s been up every year for the last 10 or so,” he said. “Recently, there’s been a very rapid increase in the take-up of the symbol and I think the overall profile of the symbol in the community is very strong now too. That’s why the Government is attracted to the idea of incorporating the symbol into the relabelling proposals that they have in mind for food.”

Raising a glass to Aussie growers

Family owned and operated Eastcoast Foods and Beverages developed out of a desire to support local growers. The business has grown from its 1965 origins when Salvatore Lentini picked and packed fresh fruit from his NSW Central Coast orchards to sell at the Sydney Markets.

Years later, when the Australian government removed tariffs on imported juice concentrate, it became less profitable to produce juice derived solely from fresh fruit. This resulted in the decline of the Australian citrus industry.

“My grandfather [Salvatore] was dumping hundreds of tons of citrus fruit annually,” Eastcoast Beverages Business Development Manager Samuel Lentini said.

“That was when my father and his two brothers decided to set up their own citrus juice processing plant and later a spring water bottling facility.” 

Now into its third generation, the business directly employs more than 25 local staff and, wherever possible, sources local and Australian produce, packaging and ingredients in every part of the production process.

Mr Lentini says all products are blended in Kulnura, NSW, where citrus fruits are grown and squeezed on-site.

“We remain committed to sourcing all our ingredients from local farmers but, regrettably, this isn’t always possible,” he said. “Of our 45 products, there are only two major ingredients that we need to import.

“As third-generation farmers, nothing annoys us more than having to use imported juices. We’ve seen more and more farmers exiting the industry because all the major juice brands are now owned by overseas interests that don’t appear to support local farming, and send their profits overseas.”

Eastcoast’s mission is to promote a premium-quality Australian beverage brand while providing outstanding customer service.

“I’ve started a ‘buy local’ campaign which is beginning to attract the consumer’s attention,” he said.

“All our marketing material – including website, labels, brochures, POS equipment, etc – heavily emphasises ‘Australian owned’ and ‘Product of Australia’ and tells a story about our heritage.”

Proudly South Australian

Australian family owned and made brand Tucker’s Natural was founded in Adelaide in 2007. Eight years on, the biscuit, cracker, snack and paste business continues to focus on local.

All Tucker’s Natural products are produced in SA and packed in locally produced packaging. Ingredients are sourced from within SA or other parts of Australia as a priority, with the brand dealing only with Australian-owned importers for the goods it cannot commercially source locally.

“We constantly review our suppliers for opportunities to continually improve the percentage of Australian ingredients where possible and remain committed to this core brand philosophy,” Tucker’s Natural Managing Director Sam Tucker said.

“By using local ingredients and suppliers, we can work closely through the value chain to develop products that are superior in the market segment.”

Mr Tucker says there is growing demand from customers to be able confidently to buy and support locally produced products.

“We’ve always aimed to highlight the quality of our ingredients in our packaging, while consistently telling our Australian-family-owned brand story. We support and feature both the Australian Made, Australian Grown and AUSBUY logos on all of our packaging,” he said.

Tucker’s Natural has posted year-on-year growth in grocery and continues to add more SKUs to the shelves of major and independent supermarkets. It recently launched two new products – Rye & Quinoa and Quinoa Multifibre Snacks – and the full range of its Fruit Pastes is currently rolling into Woolworths.

From humble beginnings, hand-packing orders through the night to doubling production capability by adding a second line, it has been quite a ride, says Mr Tucker.

“We’ve worked hard to build the Tucker’s Natural team through each stage of growth, ensuring we have the best people working together on the success of the business,” he said.

Mr Tucker considers the ability to respond to customers’ evolving needs to be a strategic advantage for a family-owned business.

“We have a greater degree of freedom to trial and create products that drive innovation in the category, plus the ability to communicate with consumers in a really direct, authentic way,” he said. “We’ve got a real family story behind our brand and products.”

Award-winning ice-cream

Serendipity Ice Cream was founded in the inner Sydney suburb of Paddington in 1966 by Alix Mandelson, an American allergic to chocolate.

The most exotic ice-cream available at the time was the Neapolitan style, so Ms Mandelson set about making her own ice-cream at home, which she shared with friends, who encouraged her to set up the business by ordering ice-cream from her.

The ‘super premium’ ice-cream business flourished. It was purchased by daughter Sarah and her husband in 1991 and moved to larger premises in Sydney’s Marrickville in 1996.

Serendipity is now served in first and business classes on numerous airlines and can be found at pop-up bars around Sydney in addition to independent grocery stores. It is also highly awarded, winning more than 400 medals and 24 champion trophies over the past eight years.

Throughout close to 50 years of production, Serendipity has continued to source Australian ingredients.

“All our products are produced in our HACCP-certified Marrickville factory from local ingredients where possible,” Serendipity Ice Cream Sales and Marketing Manager Nicole Carr said. “For example, our fresh milk and cream come from the NSW northern rivers district and our Mango Sorbet contains 62 per cent [w/w] Kensington Pride mangoes from north Queensland.

Ms Carr says the business, which provides employment for up to 40 staff in peak season, will continue to source locally.

“The best dairy products come from our own backyard and although the cost of labour may be higher here, local manufacturing ensures we’re creating employment directly and indirectly for our suppliers,” she said. “It also helps to ensure we keep the food miles and carbon emissions down in producing our range of ice creams and sorbets.”

Premium brews

Bundaberg Brewed Drinks is a proud Australian family-owned business. For more than 40 years, the company has crafted premium beverages using the finest of ingredients, sourced mainly from the rich and fertile lands of the Bundaberg area of Queensland.

“Despite the passing of time, very little has changed in the way we brew our beverages,” Bundaberg Brewed Drinks CEO John McLean said.

“We remain dedicated to brewing the finest drinks in an old-fashioned manner, using the finest ingredients. This means real ginger root in our Bundaberg Ginger Beer and real lemon and lime juices in our Bundaberg Lemon, Lime & Bitters.”

The group’s commitment to quality and traditional methods has paid off. Bundaberg Ginger Beer, Bundaberg Sarsaparilla, and Bundaberg Lemon, Lime & Bitters are the top selling beverages of their kind in Australia and New Zealand.

“We’re proud to have taken the Bundaberg name and quality ingredients to such faraway places as Madagascar, the US, Europe and South Africa,” Mr McLean said.

Use of quality ingredients is critical to retaining the brand’s unique selling proposition and Bundaberg Brewed Drinks is committed to using local ingredients wherever possible.

“This has meant often paying premium rates for an ingredient,” Mr McLean said. “However, quality is something we cannot compromise on.”

He says Australian family owned brands are some of the best in the world.

Greetings from home

Non-food products tend to draw less attention in discussions around Australian made and owned, but are just as important in supporting local jobs. One company bucking the trend towards offshore manufacturing is Biscay Greetings.

Founded in 1971, Biscay Greetings is a wholly Australian owned company that produces a comprehensive range of cards and wraps. More than 80 staff are employed by the Victorian business.

Biscay Greetings CEO Lou Smit says about 80 per cent of the company’s products are manufactured locally.

“We have some ranges manufactured in China, as we don’t have the infrastructure here to manufacture at competitive rates,” he said. “We also have some of the peripherals within our business – such as stands, promotional products and merchandising paraphernalia – produced overseas.”

The few items made offshore are designed in Australia, keeping as much of the business local as possible.

Mr Smit says it is important for Biscay to continue to produce the bulk of its range in Australia as the reduced lead-time gives the company the ability to react quickly in a highly competitive market.

“At our level within the market, customers are verbally in favour of supporting Australian made,” he said. “But when it comes down to it, price, profit and a saleable item wins.”

In order to produce value-for-money products, Biscay Greetings aims to make “wanted products” suitable for the wide diversity of the Australian market, at a reasonable price point.

Aussie fruit flavours new mustard

Adelaide-based food company Spring Gully Foods is introducing a new condiment range designed to spice up Australia’s traditional mustard category.

After more than a year of development, four new fruit mustards are being launched across the country, combining the characteristics of hot English mustard with the flavours of orange, fig, olive and mango.

Spring Gully Foods Managing Director Kevin Webb cited an overseas trip to Europe as inspiration behind the development of the new products.

“Mustards in Australia currently fall into three types – Dijon, English and seeding mustards,” he said. “However, when I visited European supermarkets, I noticed a strong trend of fruit mustards and less common flavours on the shelves. We’re convinced these varieties will appeal to the Australian palate.”

Spring Gully Foods began experimenting with flavours before the 2014 Royal Adelaide Show and prepared some early samples for visitors to taste at its stand.

“We gave visitors forms to fill in to assess their feedback, and we’ve looked to incorporate this information and further refine and tweak the products,” Mr Webb said.

Spring Gully Foods is currently working with retailers to have the new range of fruit mustards available to customers in the coming months.

Mr Webb says shoppers are becoming more conscious of where products come from and how they are made.

“All of the fruit used to make our fruit mustards has been sourced from Australian growers,” he said.

Spring Gully Foods is a, fourth-generation South Australian family owned and operated company and a leading manufacturer of pickles, sauces, relishes, chutneys, honeys, jams and fruit spreads.