Food producers gearing up for 'explosive demand'
FOOD producers on the Northern Rivers are gearing towards an explosive demand for their products but they are requesting support from local and state government through dedicated food areas to expand their operations and offer more local jobs.
Olga Plonitkova and Alex Komarov moved to the Northern Rivers from Melbourne in 2014 with their company, Extraordinary Foods.
The Russian nationals started Extraordinary Foods in Victoria in 2013, where the couple struggled to move it passed a home kitchen operation.
" We decided to move to the Northern Rivers in 2014 because it was easier at the time to do it here," Plonitkova said.
Commercial production started in 2015 once their production space at the Byron Industrial Estate was finished.
The couple produces a range of healthy snacks (called Pure Snack Kale Chips) and healthy salad or meal toppers (Pimp My Salad).
They sell their products in 900 stores nationwide, plus in select locations in the US, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai.
They employ eight to 10 people (depending on the season) in a relatively small 140 sqm space.
"We have to be very creative when using it," Plotnikova said.
Mr Komarov agrees with a recent RDA Northern Rivers survey indicating that food companies have the potential for sustained growth in the area if food hubs are established.
"We are gearing up towards expansion at the moment, and are about to formally launch our products in the US at the biggest natural food show Expo West this March, as well as in the UK (also this March, so lots of traveling) where we are working with UK Grocery Accelerator, and already have several big UK store chains confirmed that they will list our products."
The couple estimated their chances of succeeding overseas as high.
"We already tested our products in foreign markets and have already been selling in the US in around 80 stores across seven states in the past year," Plotnivoka said.
"We are ready to build a new factory, that needs to be at least three to five times bigger than our current one. Our projections show that we can start employing up to 30 additional staff members over the next four years."
The business owners are struggling to find a suitable commercial building for their future ventures.
"Our first choice would be Ballina, but there is nothing available there at the moment," Komarov said.
"Without a new factory we could be forced to do contract manufacturing of our products overseas (US and UK). With the correct government support, we can keep the jobs in Northern NSW and continue working with local farmers, rather than doing overseas."