Spotlight on growing First Nations food sector at Fine Food Australia

Showcasing more than 850 exhibitors, and over 120 speakers, Fine Food Australia is gearing up for one of its biggest shows in its 39-year history.

This year a massive number of businesses and experts will converge at Sydney’s ICC from September 11-14 over two levels.

With demand for First Nations food products currently at a high, top Indigenous businesses and learned experts will be one major draw at this year’s event.

According to the latest market research from The University of Sydney, the First Nations food sector was worth $81.5 million in 2019-2020 and forecast to rapidly grow, potentially doubling by 2025.

Fine Food Australia Event Manager, Andrew Lawson, said the event was proud to support such an important part of the industry. “The level of innovation and passion in this area is incredible,” said Lawson.

“We have fantastic native ingredients and products in Australia and demand is strong.

“We’re thrilled to showcase successful businesses and speakers in the space at one of our biggest shows ever including Austrade’s First Nations stand.

“Last year Austrade’s Agribusiness stand attracted quality visitors, bringing tremendous value to the event through highlighting export capabilities to international buyers. We anticipate the same level of interest this year.”

Top speakers

Leading voices will present the much-anticipated From rivermint to Kakadu plum – do you know the source, on The Source Kitchen stage to discuss authentic supply channels and endeavours.

Speaker Clarence Slocklee, from horticulture company, Jiway, said it is important for businesses to understand where and how produce is grown for transparency.

“In the case of bushfoods, we need to ask is there a benefit to Aboriginal communities,” said the ABC Gardening Australia presenter.

“We also need to understand whether harvesting is impacting plant communities and eco systems.”

Ongoing supporting of First Nations businesses, many of which give back to the community, is vital according to fellow speaker Domenic Smith of Pundi Produce. The company, which stocks native teas, is about to launch a range of non-alcoholic native bitters in flavours of wood, leaves and fruit. “We’re passionate about improving community and environmental well-being through practices at our aquaponic farm,” said Mr Smith. “We want to build on cultural knowledge and support the land whilst celebrating the food’s cultural heritage and making a difference for Indigenous youth.”

Key exhibitors

Other exhibitors include Creative Native – supplier of native food produce and value-added products which supports Indigenous growers and communities; shellfish aquaculture company Yumbah – whose philosophy is inspired by traditional Indigenous practices; and The Unexpected Guest founded by Jenny Khan – providers of museli and snack bars infused with indigenous ingredients.

This year government international trade promotion and investment attraction agency, Austrade, will feature unique flavours of First Nations producers at their stand.

“Fine Food Australia is a fantastic opportunity for exporters to connect with international customers, promote their products and build excitement around Australia’s diverse food and beverage products and services,” said Austrade’s assistant general manager for Trade, David Lawson.

“Our First Nations food producers add unique flavours and traditions to Australia’s reputation for safe, sustainable, premium food and beverages.”

Austrade showcase inclusions

Indigiearth: Founded by Ngemba Weilwan woman, Sharon Winsor, who will also take part in The Source Kitchen presentation, Indigiearth produces premium authentic native foods, beverages, ingredients and botanicals. The award-winning, wholly Aboriginal owned and established business sources native ingredients from Aboriginal communities using traditional land management practices.

Kakadu Organics: Supplying a range of native bush foods and wellness products, Kakadu Organics uses traditional wisdom and ancient mythology taught and passed down through generations. The business, which first featured on Shark Tank Australia in 2016, supplies to hotels, airports, department stores and exports internationally. It partners with First Nations farmers to produce native spices, relish jams, pickles and teas.

NAAKPA – Northern Australia Aboriginal Kakadu Plum Alliance: The NAAKPA alliance of Indigenous-owned companies includes Mayi Harvests and Thamarrurr Plums, which supplies Kakadu plum fruit and extracts for local and international markets. NAAKPA has supported its growers to double production yearly. Growers are increasingly turning attention to exports working with Austrade to develop Kakadu plum markets overseas.

Jala Jala Treats: Offering confectionary including chocolate made with native ingredients Davidson plum, finger lime and wattleseed, as well as six blends of native infused teas, Jala Jala sells online and supplies to retail outlets and hotels in Australia. It’s currently exploring export opportunities in South-East Asia. Proud Yamatji-Noongar woman and founder, Sharon Brindley, is an ardent advocate for First Nations owned native food businesses.

“I developed my love of cooking and knowledge of Indigenous ingredients from my grandmother, one of The Stolen Generations,” she said. “I love that I’m sharing the excitement kindled in me then, using the same ingredients and flavours in my business. I’ve seen first-hand how food plays an integral part in connecting family and people regardless of background, culture or religion.”

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