Why Australia should be proud of its food culture

Why Australia should be proud of its food culture
SHARE
THIS



Ask most people buying their morning coffee, gnawing on a goji berry, or visiting Sizzler on a Tuesday night, what their definition of Australian food culture is, and you’re likely to attract blank stares…

In our part of the world where food is plentiful and we can invest time and editorial weighing up the relative benefits of kale and cauliflower, it may appear that our tastes are more magpie than maven.

But beyond the argument that we eat more sugar and fat than we should because it’s cheaper than fresh produce, there are stronger trends around food, particularly in regards to category growth, that have really only hit their straps in a post-GFC economy, and which have strong potential for a key new stream of content production.

Food not only makes up a big proportion of our household bills, upwards of $200 a week for the “average” Australian family, it also comprised a decent chunk of TV schedules throughout 2013 with 16 food-specific shows airing on FTA TV throughout 2013, up from 10 in 2011. Not only that, the category continues to bring in significant ratings, spearheaded by My Kitchen Rules.

So is it our fascination with food just another flash in the pan, so to speak, a way to fill the food culture void, or is there a broader trend at play that is prompting an unforeseen interest in our palates?

Research asking prospective visitors to Australia about their planned experiences yields little in the way of surprise. Food falls far down the list, particularly when compared to our most famous landmarks, of the hopping and coat-hanger varieties. Interestingly though, on departure the tourists had changed their tune, listing food high amongst other Australian experiences.

The first time Australians experienced their own shift in local food experiences was in the post-WWII period of immigration. Prime Minister Chifley’s ‘populate or perish’ program encouraged the arrival of over 1.2 million ‘new Australians’ primarily from Europe and Asia in the ten years between 1949 and 1959. While it certainly didn’t occur overnight, our largely British-based diets grew exponentially across not only food and beverage, but our experience and expectation of dining, too. As we begun to enjoy much greater varieties of wine, cheese, and coffee; to name but a few modern-day staples. Aussies were also starting to innovate on their own, such as the birth in 1951 of the Chinese-inspired Chiko Roll (check out meandmybigmouth.com.au for a comprehensive history of Australian food).

The tantalisation of our tastebuds over time has certainly given credence to the idea that curiosity and the search for what’s new is a major driver of Australians’ culinary preferences. Professor Barbara Santich, author of Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage argues that far from having zero food culture, Australian cuisine is distinctive for its innovation.

A mix of native ingredients and global influence has largely defined ‘modern Australian’ menus for the past decade, and along with this ongoing culture of invention, the importance of origin has become an almost unnoticeable part of our foodie fabric.

If where our food comes from has always been a defining characteristic of our gastronomy, then this trend has never been more apparent, and yet it is so frequently missed in editorial and discussion. It may surprise some to find that the fastest growing sector in the $43bn Australian food manufacturing industry is organic produce, reporting a growth rate of 12.1% over the past 5 years, with a further 8.4% in growth expected every year for the next five. The data says that despite the GFC, and tighter purse strings, more and more Australians are spending more of their money on higher priced produce.

Is this simply a happy accident for Australia’s 2000+ organic farmers, an anachronistic event whereby organic produce stands alone with double digit growth at a time when almost every other retail headline signals saving over spending since the GFC?

It is a fragmented industry, with an equally fragmented marketing budget, at a higher price tag than mainstream food brands, let alone private label, increasing demand domestically and for export every day. The obvious answer seems to be a correlation with the growth of the health and fitness categories. Without even looking at the statistics, instinct dictates that if you’re genuinely interested in your health, you’re doubling down at the gym, and at the supermarket, or the farmer’s market as the case may be. However this doesn’t explain the rapid rebound in organics demand we exhibited immediately following the GFC.

The more closely correlating stats actually belong to an industry known more for “reality” TV than the sensory feast of a farmer’s market. DIY, like organics, is expected to continue to grow at a rapid rate over the next five years (16% according to IBISWorld), and with it an individualistic approach to our history of food innovation via the humble kitchen garden.

As Australians started to take a closer look at their pantry shelves and garden patches with both shovel and wooden spoon in hand, our renewed love affair with the veggie patch has taken on new meaning.

Dozens of cafes and restaurants now utilise their own kitchen gardens, with the popularity of cafes such as The Grounds, attracting hundreds of posts when its farmyard residents Kevin & Bradley were kidnapped last year. Comprehensive education programs such as Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden speak to a growing gardening movement that is attracting as many farm fresh foodies as diehard DIY-ers. Hard evidence on the absolute number of backyard veggie patches nationwide may be anecdotal, but when we consider the concurrent growth of DIY and organics, a new dynamic around Australian food trends starts to emerge.

As our hip pockets were hit by economic uncertainty, our flight to safety encompassed a ‘home first’ trend that extended beyond cooking at home, to home grown. Instead of a negative impact on the organics industry, our lifelong fascination with the origins and sourcing of our food was made tangible in our backyards, our neighbourhood gardens, our schools, and cafes and restaurants both city-side and country-wide.

If the futurists are right, and our manufacturing future truly lies in food, can we expect spin-offs such as The Crop, Gardener Wants a Wife, or even a My Harvest Rules? We are innovators, after all.

Bronwyn Cooper, Strategy Group Head, OMD

Please login with linkedin to comment

Latest News

Commercial Radio Australia Develops Amazon Alexa Skill For Listeners
  • Media
  • Technology

Commercial Radio Australia Develops Amazon Alexa Skill For Listeners

The commercial radio industry has announced the launch of the RadioApp skill for Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa. The new skill is designed to make radio listening simpler and more convenient for Aussies, who can now ask Alexa to play any of the country’s 300 AM, FM and DAB+ digital stations by name or frequency. The […]

Thursday TV Wrap: Gogglebox Gives The Bachelorette A Touch Up
  • Media

Thursday TV Wrap: Gogglebox Gives The Bachelorette A Touch Up

Ten’s Gogglebox continues to be a surprise winner for the network, posting 729,000 viewers and making it the most watched entertainment show for Thursday night. Gogglebox even managed to put almost 150,000 on its more fancied stablemate, The Bachelorette, that could only muster 586,000 viewers last night. Seven won the night – 29.4 per cent of the audience […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Radio Buying Moves To Second Phase As Industry Eyes Programmatic Opportunity
  • Advertising
  • Media
  • Technology

Radio Buying Moves To Second Phase As Industry Eyes Programmatic Opportunity

The commercial radio industry has announced it is moving forward to phase two of an industry-wide project to automate and simplify the buying of radio. Phase one has resulted in the roll out of the AudioNET automated holding software RadioMATRIX. The industry-wide system, live since October 2017 and paperless since July 2018, is now used […]

Radio Industry Announces World-First “Super Pilot” For Audience Measurement
  • Media

Radio Industry Announces World-First “Super Pilot” For Audience Measurement

Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) and global market research firm GfK test the measurement of radio listening using a combination of diary and electronic meters in the first half of 2019. CRA chief executive Joan Warner said the initiative would be the largest-scale radio audience measurement pilot study using diary and electronic monitoring ever undertaken in […]

Radio Networks Unite To Grow Aussie Podcast Industry
  • Media

Radio Networks Unite To Grow Aussie Podcast Industry

Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) has announced it will establish a Podcast Working Group comprised of all major radio players, including the ABC and SBS. Announcing the initiative at the Radio Alive 2018 national conference in Melbourne today, CRA chief executive Joan Warner said the working group would be charged with developing an all-of-industry podcast strategy, […]

Study: Half Of All New Guitar Sales Are To Women
  • Marketing

Study: Half Of All New Guitar Sales Are To Women

The idea that the rock ‘n’ roll business is dominated by sweaty men is set to be turned on its head with new research showing that 50 per cent of all new electric guitar sales are to women. The study, by legendary ‘axe’ maker Fender, shows that the next set of big rock acts are […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Burger King Claims Its Hideous-Looking Halloween Burger Will Give Diners Nightmares
  • Campaigns

Burger King Claims Its Hideous-Looking Halloween Burger Will Give Diners Nightmares

Typically, eating a Whopper burger gives you heightened cholesterol and a bad dose of indigestion, but Burger King’s latest creation is set to give diners nightmares – quite literally. The new Halloween burger to be released in the US is nightmarish enough, with a green bun, bacon and and what appears to be deep-fried chicken […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Tourism Campaign: Self-Confessed “Boring” Nebraska Declares “It’s Not For Everyone”
  • Advertising
  • Campaigns

Tourism Campaign: Self-Confessed “Boring” Nebraska Declares “It’s Not For Everyone”

How do you attract tourists when, let’s be honest, your home state’s just a bit boring? That was the dilemma facing US midwestern town Nebraska which, due to a lack of things to do, was facing a visitor shortage on top of being voted the “least likely state” tourists planned on visiting. Hence, its new tourist catchphrase, “Honestly, it’s […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
APN Outdoor Boss James Warburton To Exit
  • Media

APN Outdoor Boss James Warburton To Exit

After less than a year in the role, APN Outdoor CEO James Warburton will leave the business following the completion of its acquisition by JCDecaux. The Federal Court of Australia was the latest regulator to give the JCDecaux-APN Outdoor deal the green light, announcing its approval to APN shareholders yesterday. Warburton joined APN Outdoor in […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Six Tips To Getting Your Opinion Heard In Meetings
  • Opinion

Six Tips To Getting Your Opinion Heard In Meetings

Michelle Sales (pictured below) is a leadership speaker, coach and trainer and author of The Power of Real Confidence. In this book extract below, Sales offers her tips to make sure your voice gets heard at any meeting… It was Eleanor Roosevelt who once said, ‘You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which […]

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
How To Foster A Culture Of Creativity
  • Opinion

How To Foster A Culture Of Creativity

Emma Bannister (pictured below) is the CEO of Presentation Studio and author of the book Visual Thinking: How to transform the way you think, communicate and influence with presentations. In this guest post, Bannister offers her top tips to get the creative juices flowing… Many of us wrongly assume that to be creative, means to […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Buxton Real Estate Appoints JPD As Strategic, Creative & Digital Agency
  • Advertising
  • Marketing

Buxton Real Estate Appoints JPD As Strategic, Creative & Digital Agency

Melbourne real estate group Buxton has appointed independent agency James Phillip Design (JDP) to handle strategic, creative and digital duties. JDP managing director James Peltekis said the agency was very excited about the appointment. “We’ve been collaborating with Buxton for a while now, working on their overall brand strategy and refreshing their brand. We’re delighted […]