Australian Bush Spices’ Scott Foster.
Australian Bush Spices’ Scott Foster. MIREILLE MERLET-SHAW

Bush spices up our lives

A LOCAL specialist food company is finding that it can spice up the lives of people living in the region while kicking goals as a business on the national scene.

Indeed Australian Bush Spices, which is based on a 40ha farm in Knockrow, is expanding its market horizons beyond Australia at the same time as it is expanding its product range.

Two recent additions introduced sweet blends - the Pink dusting spice and the Violet cooking spice - which were an immediate hit with the cognoscenti, picking up silver medals at this year's Sydney Royal Fine Food Festival.

And in a repeat of accolades for the company at every festival since 2008, the Red Meat blend, Yellow Bush Dukkah and Orange Bush Curry all won a bronze.

The sweet blends are a move to encourage children to start eating native spices, according to the company's founder, Scott Foster.

"There are all sorts of health benefits in these foods, such as the very high level of vitamin C in bush tomatoes, and the anti-bacterial qualities of bush myrtle," he said.

Foster started the business four years ago, after he had tired of working in the frontline of hospitality.

A chef and former restaurant front-of-house guy, Foster knew his food, and wanted to create something unique to the taste buds that was also ethically based.

He started small, but after the 2008 awards began to expand. He found distributors in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne and the business has grown steadily.

There are two major developments in the pipeline. One is to respond to the high level of inquiry he receives from Germany, to find a distributor there and begin export operations.

The other is a change in the design of the packaging, to replace the 80gm tins with recycled cardboard, as part of the brand's determination to decrease the size of its carbon footprint.

"About 85% of the new packaging will be recycled," Foster said.

The lighter containers will also mean a reduction in freighting load, meaning less fossil fuel burnt.

Northern Rivers outlets include IGA Ballina, the Macadamia Castle and visitors' centres in Lismore and Byron as well as a host of smaller outlets - a far cry from the days when Foster would sell his wares through markets.

But Foster still has "keeping things local" as one of the company's mantras.

He sources all his macadamias from the farm he lives on and aims to find everything else as close to home as he can. This is not always possible, as some things need the desert or colder climates to grow, but if not local it will be from an ethically-based producer, he said.

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