Eliza Berlage and Gabrielle Duykers, Naracoorte Community News
More than 30 local producers gathered together last week for the inaugural Limestone Coast Food Forum.
Hosted by the Limestone Coast Food and Agribusiness Cluster, food processors, and retailers met at Lucindale Country Club to hear from 16 guest speakers about opportunities in the local food and beverage industry.
Cluster chair Danielle England opened the forum, speaking about the growing opportunities for food business in the region.
Food SA CEO Catherine Sayer then addressed the room via video call and gave an overview of trends in the food industry trends across the state.
Ms Sayer said consumers were becoming more environmentally conscious and aware of the adverse impacts of plastic packaging. She said there was also an increased focus on health and wellness, and encouraged producers to capitalize on products with health beneﬁt claims.
How to ‘create a regional food story’ – Lynda Schenk from Purple Giraffe spoke about creating a “regional food story”, drawing on the Victorian Wine Experience as a case study. Ms Schenk emphasized the importance of establishing the “unique” and “natural gifts” the Limestone Coast has to offer and building a food story from those core concepts.
“Identify what makes your food offering in the region special,” she said. “Be authentic.”
Ms Schenk said establishing a brand strategy and a clear audience were critical in successfully promoting the area.
“The more you know your target market, the easier it is for you to attract them to your region,” she said.
CSIRO Future Protein Mission leader and professor Michelle Colgrave spoke about the need to produce more sustainable protein sources to address global food shortages.
Professor Colgrave said Australians were eating less meat and there was a growing demand for plant-based protein foods.
Some meat producers in the room voiced concerns over whether clearing land for plant protein would be any more efﬁcient than for livestock.
Professor Colgrave reassured the crowd there was no battle between meat and plant protein production.
“It’s a complimentary story as opposed to doing one or the other,” she said.
Nick Whiting from Pendleton Olives Keith spoke about developing a trusted brand and promoting the health beneﬁts of the product.
The forum then heard from three local free-range meat producers about their efforts to create an ethical business model. This included Mark Wheal of Beachport Berkshires, Robyn Verral of Bully’s Meats, and Lucy Dodd of Lowan Park in Bordertown.
Ms Dodd raises chickens and spoke about her drive to provide ethically sourced meat.
“We grow our chickens out in the paddock so they are directly fertilizing our pastures which means we get a better return on those pastures,” she said.
Ms Dodd said the chickens were moved to fresh grass daily, making for a low-stress environment that translated in taste.
My core consumer is a conscious consumer who is looking to know how the animals are being raised, often someone looking to eat less meat, and who wants good quality with a great taste difference,” she said.
CSIRO Innovation Facilitator David Monck spoke about waste as an opportunity. This included moving towards sustainable packaging and examples of waste being transformed into new products.
Global market demands on food – Alistair McFarlane of Beston Foods spoke on the importance of food security in a global market and AusIndustry Entrepreneurs Programme facilitator Brett Henderson talked about regional solutions in supply chain logistics and exports.
Lastly, the forum heard from a panel about food tourism and regional branding opportunities. This included Simon Meares from Coonawarra Experiences, Sue Bell from Bellwether Wines, and Nick McIntyre from the Naracoorte Caves.
Mr McIntyre spoke about a recent decision for the Caves Cafe to consist primarily of local produce, and how this had enhanced visitor experience.
“The idea of the cafe started as just a level of service to people who might want to visit the site,” Mr McIntyre said.
“More recently, however, the cafe has become part of a unique and immersive experience that customers receive.”
Mr McIntyre said visitors were interested in the history behind the landscape of the region and its connection to food and wine.
“People want to know where the product came from, where it originated, and the story behind it.”
“There’s a real interest in the paddock to plate story, and the broader food bowl of the region.”
Mr McIntyre said park rangers tell visitors the story of the Caves’ formation and the development of the terra rossa soils which are highly suitable for vineyards.
The forum was supported by the Limestone Coast Landscape Board, AgInnovate, AusIndustry, and Sally Klose Strategic Solutions.
Throughout the day attendees enjoyed a range of local food.
For lunch butter chicken and beef curry was supplied with proteins from Lowan Park and Bully’s Meats.
For afternoon tea gourmet cinnamon scrolls were provided from Scroll Queen Mount Gambier as well as Alfajor biscuits from Argentinian Delights in Bordertown.
The evening was ﬁnished off with a charcuterie including a collection of local cheeses, meats from Tendercuts Naracoorte, accompanied by a glass of red from Bellwether Wines.
This article appeared in Naracoorte Community News, 11 August 2021.