Victorian couple James and Liza Barbour turned their backyard pickle hobby into the third largest pickle producer in Australia in only two short years, here is how it happened.
James and Liza Barbour recognised a hole in the pickle market in Australia and as a lover of American style pickles, ex-pat James knew he could win over the Aussie consumer and Dilliicous Pickles was born.
With available alternatives largely grown and produced overseas the company got its start as a hobby for James to make his own American pickles but it quickly took on a life of its own and after just two years, Dillicious has become the third largest manufacturer of pickles in Australia.
From humble beginnings on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula in 2018, Dillicious has already sold more than 1 million pickles – and the appetite for their premium, Aussie-made product is not slowing down.
“It started when I was looking for the type of cucumbers used for American pickles so I could finally make my own but when we gave them to friends and family the feedback was great,” said James.
The common response from people who tried the Barbour’s pickles was that they should produce a product line of their own.
“At first me and Liza thought it would make for a pretty great little side hustle and hobby. We started out at farmer’s markets and continued to get that feedback,” said James.
“All of my ideas to date have been things Liza couldn’t get excited about and this was the first one that she thought she could get into. Funnily enough Liza hated pickles before we made them.
“Pretty quickly after selling at farmer’s markets the brand continued to grow and I was fortunate enough to make it my full-time job to manufacture.”
James became the general manager of Dillicious Pickles and along with Liza the pair continued to nurture the company’s rapid growth.
James said the lack of American style pickles, pickled cucumbers to be exact, was something many Australians had no exposure or point of reference for, beyond American pop-culture, but he was also sure there would be a taste for them here.
“I am from America and over there the pickle really is a part of the culture, it is engrained there, I would compare it to Vegemite in Australia. Something that might be divisive to some while others love it,” said James.
“We started by selling them at small markets and giving them to friends and the feedback made us realise the demand for our pickles,” said James.
In a stroke of luck, when Dillicious was introduced to Calendar Cheese, the largest importer and seller of gourmet cheeses and speciality foods, the company had just lost its American pickle supplier.
“The company they were using went bankrupt at that time, Calendar Cheese had created a customer base here for the product and here were with a replacement. It was perfect timing for the partnership,” said James.
“It was also a great fit for Calendar because they could promote Australian grown instead of imported, and a lot of consumers love to support locally grown produce.”
James already had experience working in the sector, having been a fruit and vegetable wholesaler for eight years himself and that experience has helped with the growth of Dillicious Pickles.
“Our aspirations for Dillicious are not small. To spread the pickle power even further we need to make our pickles accessible to everyone, on shelves in more retail stores and served by even more commercial kitchens,” said James.
Dillicious will be celebrating three years in the market this November and in that short period of time the product has already been picked up and stocked by over 400 wholesale customers throughout Australia, including Coles Local, Costco, Bar Luca, Easeys and Veggie Bar.
The manufacturers have also been approached by some big names in the food industry which will see their growth increase even quicker.
Another critical factor in the development of Dillicious Pickles was Liza Barbour’s area of expertise as a dietician who teaches food sustainability at one of Australia’s most prestigious universities, Monash.
“It was really important to Liza that the product we created was a good product for people to eat so one of the biggest things that sets ours apart is they have no added sugar,” said James.
“Sugar is generally used to cut down on the acidity of the vinegar, but we wanted to make sure we weren’t doing that.”
Instead, the couple uses apple cider vinegar which still creates some sourness but with a combination of sweet.
“The end product is a very tasty pickle that differs from the competition,” said James.
The Barbour’s are excited for the future of the company and the possibilities created from its rapid growth.
“We have been super excited from the very beginning, we love being able to make products that people want and can make them smile,” said James.
“Now it is only a matter of how many people can we do that for.”
James said packaging was another part of the brand he felt was helping draw consumers in, which is why it hasn’t been changed in the last two years.
“A lot of star-ups say to not get distracted by the branding and labels but we knew we were appealing to a niche market so we put importance on getting the best design we could,” said James.
They hired a designer, gave him the brief, and the product was exactly what James and Liza envisioned.
“We knew pickles alone aren’t enough to draw people in, so you hit them with your key points and make it easier for them to see what makes your product different,” said James.
“Interestingly we are currently undergoing a minor brand refresh across all of our lines just to help bring everything together while still highlighting the differences.”
The last two years of rapid growth for Dillicious Pickles is the result of hard work and dedication but also a genuine love of the product and a desire to see it appreciated by others.
The next major step for Dillicious Pickles, in terms of distribution, is to secure a place at one of the larger supermarket chains to achieve one of its next most important goals.
“We want to become more accessible to the larger Australian consumer base, the families who are looking for a healthy alternative for their kids, or people who might have given up on other product options,” said James.
“We know customers want affordability and quality which is one of our goals, we want to be more accessible without sacrificing on the quality of our product.”