Strategy to develop the native food industry in South Australia

May 2003

The South Australian State Food Program has for some time recognised the potential of the Australian native food industry. Various individual companies have been marketing native products with mixed success for many years. However, the industry has not realised its true potential because of the lack of a co-ordinated approach.

Recognising this, Food South Australia and Tourism Training SA commissioned David McKinna et al to develop an industry strategy to develop the native foods industry of South Australia.

Executive summary

This study is confined to native food, i.e. edible plant material. It is also recognised that there are many native plants that have therapeutic and health benefits. These have been excluded from the study.

The commercialisation of the native food industry was started about 20 years ago with the key commercial players being Vic Cherikoff, Peter Handundt, Andrew Fielke and Peter Latz. It began with the harvesting of wild fruit and berries but later extended into seed and foliage. Initially the industry was totally reliant on wild harvest or collection but, in recent years, there have been attempts to commercially cultivate native species. This was done in recognition of the fact that if the industry was to grow it must get reliable supplies in commercial quantities.

It is difficult to make a true estimate of the value of the industry because of its informal structure and the fact that much of it does not enter commercial channels.

Our best estimate puts the wholesale value of the industry at $20-30 million.

Despite the large number of edible species, the vast majority of the volume is in a handful of species:

  • Bush tomato
  • Quandong
  • Muntries
  • Riberry
  • Acacia
  • Lemon Aspen
  • Mountain pepper
  • Kakadu plum
  • Illawarra plum
  • Native Citrus
  • Lemon Myrtle
  • Native Currant
  • Warrigal Greens
  • Native Raspberries

From what we have been able to ascertain, there are four major companies currently marketing processed native foods:

There are also a number of other companies using native food ingredients in some of their products including Beerenberg jam and Casalare Speciality Pasta.

In addition, there is some produce being sold directly from growers/collectors in unprocessed form directly to restaurants. Despite the low volumes there appears to be a lot of interest in these products in the United Kingdom in supermarkets/department stores such as Sainsburys and Tesco.

The native food industry has a huge potential. A native Australian cuisine could be developed similar in size to the Asian, Mexican and other ethnic categories. Native species are also suited for use in a diverse range of products across many categories.

There are seemingly endless numbers native species; the challenge is for the industry to select the ones with the most potential. The other issue is the multiplicity of categories that native foods are suited too. The best markets and products need to be identified so that the industry can focus on them.

There are several factors driving the interest in native foods. These include Australians' passion for food, the world's fascination with Australia, the developing culinary tourism market and the agriculture diversity that native species offer.

The industry is constrained by a lack of critical mass, which is, largely due to a lack of commercial supplies of raw material being supplied. This in turn is due to a number of factors including low and variable yield, high labour costs relative to the prices being received and the absence of a formal supply chain to get wild harvest products, particularly by Indigenous communities, to market.

The two main marketing issues affecting the industry are the large number of brands relative to the size of the industry and an unclear market positioning relative to the mainstream food categories.

There are a number of issues that need to be addressed including product integrity, the intellectual property of the Indigenous community, whether to market foods or ingredients and whether to include native animals in this category.

There needs to be a large amount of research and development undertaken into agricultural practices for native species with the best commercial potential and product development.

About the report

This three-part report documents the findings and recommendations from the study.

Part A presents the findings from the assessment of the Australian native food industry. Part B presents a strategic situation analysis of the issues as a foundation for the development of strategic recommendations, which are presented in Part C.

You can download and read the entire document, or just the section that is of interest to you.

These files are provided in Adobe pdf format - you may need to download the Adobe Acrobat Reader to read the reports. Please contact us if you have any difficulties accessing the files.

Date modified: 21 May, 2003

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