Sydney’s gourmat food retailers are finally giving Sydney-siders a taste of the best of Western Australian produce, as Julie-anne Sprague reports.
IT seems Sydney-siders are developing a keen taste for Western Australian gourmet foods.
Several gourmet stores, including one of Sydney’s largest and most notable outlets, Jones the Grocer, are boasting a number of WA products on their shelves and intend to stock more products over the next few years, according to industry insiders.
But the adoption of gourmet food from WA hasn’t come without a lot of hard work, with the key breakthrough struck through an initiative undertaken by the Department of Industry and Resources.
The department has employed independent food consultant, Sydney-based Kelvin Bartholomeusz, to push opportunities for WA producers among the four key retailers.
According to Mr Bartholomeusz the stores are keen to boost their focus on WA.
“I think WA wine has paved the way for food tourism. It’s taking off,” he says.
“Jones [the Grocer] has people come in and buy thousands of dollars worth of cheeses. WA wines have become familiar and they know it’s quality wine.
“Jones had about three products [before the State Government initiative] and now they are looking seriously at about a further 20 products.
“It’s a win-win situation because for them [the stores] it’s hard to find products like the yabbies, organic olive oil, Margaret River chocolates. You just have to say ‘Margaret River’ and people want to snap it up.
“Margaret River soft drinks are doing very well.”
Mr Bartholomeusz says Jones is the largest gourmet store in Sydney and producers bombard it with requests for shelf space.
“Everyone approaches Jones, but on the other hand they find it very hard to find quality products,” he says.
But Jones the Grocer and the other three stores – Delish, Delicato, and The Fine Food Store – are discovering that the search has become much easier, and have turned their interest to the West.
Several businesses from the West have recently received orders.
Frankland River Olive Oils has finally succeeded in getting Jones the Grocer to stock its premium range of olive oils, according to Frankland River Olive Oils marketing manager Emma Chard.
“I’ve been trying to get there for years and now we have a rep in Sydney and we are looking to get into more food stores,” Ms Chard says.
“We’re producing three times as much oil this year and we will be doing some advertising and PR to get better recognition.
“It’s been a really good initiative by the Government.”
The Good Oil Farm manager John Hallion also says his company has struck success with Jones the Grocer.
“If you can go in as a WA initiative it certainly helps,” he says.
“It’s the first time we’ve got our oils in there. But we’ve found someone there that we want to sell to. We’re pretty fussy and we don’t want to have our product in Coles, Woolies or even Myer.”
Mr Hallion says once Sydney-siders taste the quality of some of the stock from WA food producers they appreciate and understand that it is a premium product.
“It [the eastern seaboard] is saturated with mediocrity,” he says.
“Because we are isolated we can develop products for the local market without 10 other people around trying to do the same, so that you then have to compete on price.”
The Department of Industry and Resources has compiled a retail catalogue featuring pictures and information on WA products.
According to export development manager Michael Dickson, it’s proved a valuable resource to the Sydney-based retailers.
“It has a lot of information and has colour pics in it so they know what they’ll be ordering.
“It tells them whether it has bar coding and pricing information, and so on,” Mr Dickson says.
All four of the gourmet stores are planning wine and cheese nights to market a range of WA food to VIP client lists, he says.
“They can get to these decision leaders and influencers … at the end of the day the product has to stand up but if it does there is the opportunity for these people to buy it,” Mr Dickson says.
Mr Dickson says businesses that have sent products to Sydney for trials include The Margaret River Diary Company, Ogilvie and Co, The Berry Farm, Golden Boronia (its nougat), Food Symphony, and Margaret River Beverages.
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