Monday, December 26, 2005

From Business Strategy to Bottled Stupidity

There are some interesting developments afoot in the authentic Australian food industry and some marketers hoping to ride the trend.

Some strategic alliances building business

In January, we roll out a promotional campaign announcing one new strategic alliance with an Australian family restaurant chain. The early menu testing has had fantastic results so we are expecting a huge response on the full roll out. We also plan to launch the rolled Wattleseed pavlova as a frozen dessert and begin to ensconce it as our national dessert. For a recipe to make your own and a reminder of Australia Day 05, have a look at my past blog. I won't get into the argument as to if we or the Kiwis invented the pavlova but I am happy with leaving our neighbours with the cow-pat pav (pavlova) while we exploit the sophistication of a roulade-style pavlova dessert.

A second strategic alliance is with Descendance and we are very excited to have the major Aboriginal performance troupe in Australia associated with our global Dining Downunder™, Australian cuisine promotions schedule. Our collaboration of authentic Australian food and Aboriginal dance and didjeridu (yidaki) was extremely successful in Moscow this year and we look forward to our joint promotions during 2006.

Another go at the supermarkets

Last week saw a major Victorian food manufacturer embrace several ingredients from a group of desert Aboriginal communities and wave the flag for authentic Australian foods. They are targeting the supermarkets with a stated aim of having authentic Australian foods an everyday part of Australia’s diet as well as hoping to build export markets.

This is great news as the existing range of sauces, dressings and seasonings is not doing big numbers in Coles and really needs a shot in the arm with the injection of some food technology from a company with some manufacturing expertise. One company makes an Illawarra plum chilli sauce which is clear in colour when everyone knows that Illawarra plums are a deep purple from the anti-oxidants in them (highly nutritional ingredients and all the more reason for using the plums).

I also saw that the seasonings by the same company are currently being dumped at 50c a pack and hope that this heralds their re-development to also address quality issues.

When will manufacturers learn that you can’t dupe the market? It will always sort out the quality products from the rubbish, given enough time.

More on this later …

Cherikoff authentic Australian foods help more companies grow for another record year

I firmly believe that we need more high quality products on the market. From seeing what my own range does to build the authentic Australian food sector both for my own company but more importantly, for the many clients I supply, I know the benefits to be gained from products which are different, unique, invaluable and passionately desirable.

Just have a look at the products of companies I supply, including Dick Smith Foods' Bushfood Breakfast and two of his successful soups, McCormick's spices, Charles Sturt Uni and Tilba cheeses, SPC Ardmona (Taylor's) sauces and even Woolies' Australian pepper sausages. And watch the shelves for Quandong hair care products in the New Year along with at least 5 other new food and cosmetic product range launches.

Of course we can always come unstuck. For example, the two supermarket buyers in our major Australian stores decided they didn't want to stock the exceptional King Island Lemon myrtle and maple yoghurt and so no Australian can now get this product as a result. Even though it proved itself in food service and made the grade in the specialty stores and deli's, not scoring the supermarkets meant that the volumes just weren't there for a multi-national like National Foods (owned by San Miguel of the Philippines). This fantastic yoghurt has gone the way of the dodo unless consumers begin a campaign to the supermarkets encouraging the buyers to reconsider.

In the food service sector and for the manufacturers we supply, Cherikoff authentic Australian ingredients provide the tools the end user needs to build my clients’ businesses. Think about this as it is a difficult concept to communicate. As I supply the best ingredients available, the discerning, creative and innovative chefs and manufacturers who are my clients are able to make equally invaluable dishes and products which are then talked about by the ultimate consumers of the products. We know that the best promotion money can buy is the passionate endorsement by those who know first hand – diners, consumers, end users. However, it is interesting how so many chefs and manufacturers continue to do the same thing year after year and expect a different result. Isn't that a definition for insanity?

I am convinced that if everyone believed your marketing, everyone would be your customer. Having people who try my authentic Australian ingredients and love them, talk about, refer, recommend and rave about them is the best marketing strategy I can employ.

Bottled Stupidity

And now another marketing strategy which is practicing that adage; if you can fool some of the people some of the time...

A company which I predict will struggle is marketing bottled water with ‘bush flower essences’ – read this as marketing fluff. I have to agree with Neil Shoebridge from the Financial Review who perfectly described the range as Bottled Stupidity.

Unfortunately, they demean the real marketing substance of authentic Australian ingredients.

As Neil points out, consumers are not idiots but the marketers of this water obviously think they are. He goes on to say these guys take the concept of questionable benefits to a new level. They are co-opting naturopaths who seemingly do not care about their reputations and lend their endorsements to the product claiming it has calming properties; enhances well-being; or is particularly suited to women. What are women less able to judge the authenticity of a claim of benefit where there can be none or do they mean it's just the water which is good for you?

There is absolutely no scientific evidence that flower essences have any beneficial effects whatsoever. The marketers know this and make claims which cannot be tested such as improving your intuition, insight or creativity (sic). However, should their supplier of this snake oil choose the wrong flower (if they actually even pick a single blossom), they could extract an unhealthy concentration of compounds such as histamines (which could cause dramatic allergic responses) or equally worrying, chemicals called fluoroacetates, which are similar to the compounds in the bait poison, 1080. Do these marketers really know or understand the risk and consequences of what they are doing? I hear that the supplier ‘discovered’ the ‘remarkable’ qualities of the flowers by “meditating in the bush” and then made infinitely dilute solutions of the flowers to make his snake oil. Spare me. I actually know that he simply wrote down the names of plants I presented at a short course on Aboriginal foods years ago at Sydney University. Who could really think that there's any substance behind this product despite the full colour advertisements in the glossy magazines and stands of the water in retail stores. I know I'd be wanting my money back if my purchasing manager bought the stuff in to retail.

I fully endorse Neil’s comments, “If the people (behind this water) think that anyone will buy this hogwash, they are delusional.”

Remember, you can subscribe to this newsfeed by pasting either of the following links into an RSS Reader (for more on RSS have a look at this great site):

Atom feed
RSS Feed

Technorati tags:
authentic Australian ingredients,authentic Australian food, authentic Australian foods, chef, bush flower essences

Saturday, December 24, 2005

MSG and obesity - If it tastes good it probably makes you fat

I saw an interesting note on about the link between MSG and obesity and thought I’d read the article. Unfortunately, it was for members only but a quick copy and paste of the title into Google yielded not only the background article but it opened up a Pandora’s Box.

If the topic of MSG interests you, have a look over this site for some really disconcerting information. But as to the topic of this blog, the gist of the headline is a quote from the Spanish scientists who did the research:

A team of scientists in the Faculty of Medicine at the Complutense University of Madrid has discovered that when given to rats, E-621 (monosodium glutamate) produces a massive 40 percent increase in appetite. The scientists think the additive affects the arcuate nucleus area of the brain and so prevents proper functioning of the body's appetite control mechanisms. According to this hypothesis, people (and children) who consume foods with large quantities of E-621 just feel more and more hungry the more they eat.

I guess this explains why we often over eat what Westerners accept as cheap Chinese food (moreoften found in rural towns and RSL clubs and nothing like traditional Chinese fare) and find that we are hungry about a half hour later.

Now, of course, the problem of obesity cannot be blamed on just one chemical as there are a huge number of differences between the hunter/gatherer diet of wild foods and our modern intake of highly refined, agriculturally selected, industrially modified edibles which are more adapted to the market supply chain than human nutrition. See my previous blog on this topic.

But it is certainly more grist for the mill.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Oz lemon - more than just lemon myrtle

This is my first product blog which is on Oz lemon, my lemon myrtle sprinkle and I hope to look at one of the Cherikoff authentic Australian ingredients in a two weekly post. My intention is to create a collection of short reports as a close look at these still new, exciting and uniquely Australian foods and flavours. I hope it inspires you to track down a local source or use our on-line store and experiment in your own cooking. Anyway. Onto my feature product:

Oz lemon, my lemon myrtle sprinkle

The use of the authentic Australian food industry's best quality ingredients and their state of the art formulation in Oz lemon (lemon myrtle sprinkle):

saves you money (high economy of use)
gives a better result than just ordinary lemon myrtle (far stronger and flavour-balanced) and is a lot more versatile (because of the complexity of flavour).

Oz lemon is a unique blend of lemon myrtle, encapsulated lemon myrtle essential oils, forest anise, lemon aspen and rainforest lime pulp along with some of their encapsulated juices as well. Compared to lemon myrtle alone, it can be up to twice the flavour impact because of the unique formulation of Oz lemon.

Another feature is that our brains compare new flavours (in fact, any new experiences) with a set framework of past 'accepted truths' and lemon as a taste is generally linked with acid. Try to think of a sweet lemon and it confuses rather than being immediately logical like sweet honey. To address this initial reaction to the 'lemon' in lemon myrtle, I added two indigenous sources of acid or tartness - the two rainforest fruits; lemon aspen and rainforest lime. An advantage of these fruits is that they also add complexity to the final product.

Just try my new Oz lemon mousse mix or get it already made up as a freeze-thaw stable, exceptionally high quality, scrumptious dessert from Sticky Foods in Mortdale. Here's one made up and ready to eat:

So when you next think of grabbing for the lemon juice, try some Oz lemon instead. It is far superior in any of the following where I have also suggested a range of pseudonyms to add interest to a menu:

Wild lemon and lime tart
Oz lemon sorbet
Rainforest lemon bavarois
Lemon myrtle cheesecake
Oz lemon brandy butter over Xmas pudding
Lamb shanks with garlic, rosemary and Oz lemon gremolata
Stir-fried chilli prawns on Oz lemon fettuccine
Grilled snapper with a mango and aromatic lemon myrtle salsa

and offer a revitalising Oz lemon tisane

There's a myriad of uses for this enhanced lemon myrtle formulation in menus featuring authentic Australian food, far more than for just ordinary lemon myrtle. Check out my food service pages or subscribe to the e-zine for occasional recipes you can cook and of course, Oz lemon is available through our on-line store. In addition, check out Benjamin Christie's Oz lemon recipes here.

As always, to be notified of my blogging on authentic Australian food, subscribe here and be notified by email. Alternatively, grab this newsfeed by pasting either of the appropriate links into your RSS Reader (for more on RSS have a look at this great site or check out the simple introduction to using RSS technology here).

Atom feed
RSS Feed

Technorati tags: lemon myrtle, Oz lemon, lemon, authentic Australian ingredients

Native Australian foods? You must be crazy.

A lot of people ask how I've stuck at developing Australian native foods for the two and a half decades from when I was introduced to the wild food resources of Australia's Aborigines and recognised that we could not afford to lose this knowledge as Aboriginal culture changed and I knew there was an industry in commercialising these amazing ingredients. Well, with 20:20 hindsight, I must have been crazy.

To create the native food industry meant working with suppliers, collectors, chefs, caterers and small manufacturers and moving into export markets as well. As I created demand for any particular food other entrepreneurs, often those who I trusted and with whom I worked closely grabbed a piece of the market and carved out a niche for themselves in competition. That's business, I guess and it isn't in our Australian nature to collaborate too much and it did force me to run that little bit harder to stay out in front.

So I used my science background to develop leading edge processing ingredients for larger manufacturers who needed more than just simple herbs, spices, fruits or juices. This included:

encapsulated essential oils, fruit juices and extracts
sub-critical carbon dioxide flavour extracts
juices, purees and concentrates
special formulations and blends

and on to support documentation of:

specification sheets
certificates of compliance
material safety data sheets
application information and more

The science of turning wild Aboriginal foodstuffs into ingredients for the modern food, beverage, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries has the potential to keep an army busy for several lifetimes. I know it is what keeps me interested and forward-thinking (and way out in front of the industry).

But now, even I think that I must be crazy.