I'm a tour guide who is passionate about South Australia and love to showcase to locals and visitors. Visit my facebook page at www.facebook.com/Down-to-Earth-Tours-1491827191071798/
Published March 5th 2022
Sample some South Australian produce
If you are a staunch supporter of locally sourced and made South Australian products, and if you are like me, when you venture to the supermarket, it is becoming more and more difficult to find items that meet this criteria.
For example, went to buy Nestle Carnation Evaporated Milk (Global HQ in Switzerland), and discovered when I read the tin, it indicated it was "Made in Mexico".
The website Buy Australian Made.com.au does go some way in helping to identify goods and services that are Australian produced and distributed. Also, it can be difficult to keep up with who owns what these days, particularly when what has been traditionally seen as Australian owned companies are now owned by multinational corporations offshore.
Labelling can be very misleading too if you simply do a quick scan of the item, especially when it might say "80% sourced from Australian produce". It then leads you to question where is the other 20% coming from and is it manufactured here or overseas? Also, are the profits going offshore to a foreign-owned company? Understand that you are not always going to be able to tick off all of the boxes when it comes to Australian owned, produced and sourced items.
I have listed below 8 iconic local South Australian foods which are still readily available today that attest to these businesses and their successes on a local front.
Think of Maggie Beer and you automatically think of food. To think that Maggie and her husband Colin started in South Australia with their Pheasant Farm and accompanying restaurant in the Barossa, which operated until 1993.
The Farm Shop which opened at the Pheasant Farm in 1979 still operates today and is well worth a visit.
Once Maggie and Colin had permeated themselves into the Barossa Valley community, Maggie began to learn some of the Barossa traditions such as picking watercress from the creeks, mushrooming, preserving and making her own butter from unpasteurised milk (legal at that time).
Maggie Beer's renowned Quince Paste was created from Quince Jelly, with a paste made from the leftover cooked quince.
The Beer's Pheasant Farm lent itself to experimentation and discovery of how many products you could derive from Pheasant, and these included terrines and pates. Maggie's range of pates became one of the first successful core products and are still popular today, with her combination of pheasant and chicken livers.
In what is believed to be the first successful commercial batch of Verjuice in the world, Maggie Beer got the idea from a surplus of Rhine Riesling grapes and was well aware of its production and popularity from French cookbooks (Verjus).
In 1991 the Beers, with their successful Pheasant Farm Restaurant, won an award for Best Restaurant in Australia with the Gourmet Traveller Remy Martin Award. This award was seen as the premier food award in Australia at the time
Once the restaurant closed in 1993 at the height of its success, due to the tremendous level of commitment which took its toll in burnout for the Beers, in 1996 Maggie opened her Export Kitchen.
This enabled a state of the art facility with the highest standards of hygiene and critical controls which would ensure the successful production of Maggie's many products.
Today Maggie produces many recognisable foods including her fruit pastes, jams, sauces, sugos, chutneys, vino cotto and syrups for her ice cream range.
At Christmas, puddings are manufactured from the dried fruit around Maggie's orchards.
Maggie also produces a diverse range of gift hampers, catering for all tastes, with locally made and locally sourced savoury nibbles and sweet treats, accompanied by crackers, nuts, olives, sweet biscuits, chocolates, figs, fruit pastes, preserves, sauces and other yummy items. Gift packs right up to full hampers range in price from $11.95 to $289.
Products that we do not even know as yet, are being experimented in one of Maggie Beer's production kitchens, so who knows what may be released next!
You will find the farm shop at 50 Pheasant Farm Road (via Samuel Road) at Nuriootpa in the beautiful Barossa Valley or you can order online.
If you like the idea of a sixth-generation 100% family-owned South Australian enterprise, then Beerenberg is the place for you to both visit and shop.
Their history goes right back to 1839, when Johann and Anna Paech sailed with their 5 children from Prussia to South Australia, on a ship whose Captain was named Hahn (of which Hahndorf was named in his honour).
By the late 1960s, the use of the farm changed to include the planting of a strawberry crop, and Grant Paech began selling strawberries from a roadside tin shed he had built.
By 1971 Beerenberg's famous Strawberry Jam was being made, with the name of the company established - "Beerenberg" - a German word meaning Berry Hill.
Over the years, many visitors to the farm have enjoyed selecting and picking their own strawberries, first initiated in 1975, which attracted more and more patronage as time marched on.
It was the year 1980 that the tin shed was transformed into a farm workshop as well as a brand new purpose-built shop and factory constructed on the property. During the 1980s, the Paech's discovered that Qantas was serving up imported jams to their first-class passengers, and that is when Beerenberg saw another potential market for supplying the airline with local products.
Over the succeeding decades, product development took place, particularly in the condiments and dressings categories.
Today the farm shop has been revitalised with the addition of a farm cafe adjacent. Homemade Gelati is also now available and there are regular cooking demonstrations and tastings.
Beerenberg now has over 100 products, with the best sellers being the iconic Strawberry Jam followed closely by their Caramelised Onion. If you haven't tried the Caramelised Onion, I highly recommend it, for adding to either meat dishes, soups or even on sandwiches - yum!
Check out their website for their full range of products as well as mouth-watering recipes.
If you're thinking about picking your own fresh strawberries, suggest you check the website to make sure the patch is open, as from time to time, the patch has been "picked out".
You will find Beerenberg up at Hahndorf, on Mount Barker Road.
Another local success story that has risen from "the ashes" of the struggling dairy industry in South Australia back in 2004 is Fleurieu Milk.
Around Myponga on the Fleurieu Peninsula was always known as a farming community, in particular dairy farming. During the mid to late 1900s for example, Myponga had approximately 40 dairy farms all thriving at that time.
Fast forward to the early 2000s and the number of farms had reduced to around 10 only, a sad indictment for the rapidly rising feed prices with minimal return for the farmer in selling their dairy products. Financial ruin faced many farmers around that time.
However, three families, the Clarke's, the Royans's and the Hutchinson's, whose farms had been in their families for generations pooled resources and came up with workable solutions so that the dairy industry would continue to thrive.
A niche was discovered in the market and a gap whereby the public was missing out on "real" milk straight from the farm when shopping at supermarkets.
Therefore in 2004, the Fleurieu Milk Company was formed.
The farm belonging to Barry and Merridie Clarke specialised in Jersey cows, whereas the other farm where the Royans's and the Hutchinson's operated from, were involved with Friesian Holstein herds.
The rest is history after much preparation of the production facilities ready for the milk bottling process.
The true values and vision of the company today truly support the local community and the dairy industry generally whilst maintaining the quality of their products.
Today Fleurieu Milk offers a diverse range of products including Farm Fresh and Jersey Premium range of milk catering for all tastes and health benefits.
Their flavoured milk range includes Chocolate, Strawberry, Iced Coffee, Double Shot Iced Coffee, No Added Sugar Iced Coffee and Mocha.
If you are a fan of Yoghurt, then various flavours are available including Natural, Honey, Mango, Mixed Berry, Passionfruit, Greek as well as Lactose-Free Vanilla.
Fleurieu employs many staff in varying roles across the business, with two of the well-known ones being Kym Koster (ex Crows Footballer) in the area of Sales/ Business Relations and Tony Modra (another ex Crows Footy player and Magarey Medalist) in the role of Corporate Relations).
Between the herds of both Jersey and Friesian cows, they produce something like 500,000 litres per month.
Fleurieu these days supply to over 1,000 retailers throughout metropolitan and regional South Australia.
There are currently 7 farms that raise and supply the cows for the premium milk products that Fleurieu pride itself on.
Think of South Australia and one of the mouthwatering products that come to mind in a flash is Golden North Icecream, one of my all-time favourites.
The company stems right back to the time when William Bowker and his family moved to Laura (240 kms north of Adelaide) in the mid-north of South Australia back in 1870.
Around 1880, the Bowker family began to sell fresh milk and cream from their dairy. The idea for producing ice cream originates from 1923 when the Bowker's factory in Laura began to make it, the same place where the factory still stands and produces today.
Pasteurised milk was introduced to the mid-north of the state in 1938 and by 1940 became the first manufacturer to produce the half-gallon (2 litre) container of ice cream.
The name Golden North Dairies was adopted in 1948 and for the first time in 1950, began operating the longest milk run in the world from the Barossa Valley to Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory (some 1,200 miles or just over 1,931 kms.)
The Bowker family finally sold the business in 1983 to Southern Farmers Group (Farmers Union) and a year later saw the debut of the unique "slice and serve" sausage pack ice cream.
The business was sold off again in 2001 to a group of 4 South Australian businessmen ensuring the iconic products remained in local hands.
In 2006, Golden North was recognised as an official "icon" of the State as well as going on to the Bank SA Heritage Icon list.
Yet another sale occurred in 2008, also to South Australian families, a total of 5, who are Golden North's current owners.
One of the sustainable and environmental achievements Golden North was able to initiate was the introduction of 100% palm oil-free products in 2012. It is well documented that palm oil production has led to the rapid destruction of natural rainforests, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia.
This, of course, means the destruction of animals' natural habitats, one such animal being the Orangutans.
Not only does the palm oil-free label apply to Golden North's consumer products but most of them are also gluten-free, meaning those of us with allergies can breathe easily.
Golden North has become so well known for its quality that is entered the export market to places like China in 2015 and Vietnam in 2019.
The company has won many awards over the years with accolades, including four consecutive years of winning the Canstar Blue Award for Australia's favourite ice cream tub (2018, 2019, 2020 & 2021).
March 2020 saw the re-launch of an old favourite ice cream - the iconic Giant Twins. At the same time, some new flavours were officially released, including Banana, Strawberry and Spearmint.
Who would have thought about some of the diverse range of flavours that Golden North produce in their take home tubs, including Boysenberry, Cafe Cino, Rum & Raisin, Spearmint Sundae, as well as Neapolitan!
Apart from the wide availability through supermarkets, there is an outlet on Main North Road at Nailsworth.
For those of us with a bit of a gourmet palate, the SA Gourmet Food Company has been around for almost 30 years, producing health-conscious, gourmet foods, sourced from Australian grown produce and in particular South Australian, where possible.
Having tried their Classic Italian Minestrone Soup, I can attest the flavour is superb - a great rich, thick traditional Minestrone Soup, as it should be!
Their great range of soup flavours also include Creamy Chicken & Sweet Corn, Creamy Pumpkin, Tuscan Style Tomato & Basil as well as Green Pea and Smokey Bacon. These all come in a soft plastic pour container.
There are also the traditional tin soups in Tomato flavour available.
Other condensed soups available are in the company's Souperb range which include Cream of Chicken, Cream of Mushroom, Tomato and Cream of Pumpkin.
For the making of soups, stews, risotto and casseroles, their range of stocks will fill the bill, including Chicken, Vegetable and Angus Beef.
Desserts are also catered for with SA Gourmet Food's Fruit Custards with added fibre range. Flavours on hand are Strawberry, Banana and Apple.
Not to mention tins of Crushed Tomatoes, which can be used in any Italian based recipe - both a classic as well as a "No Added Salt" range.
Their website also has on tap some inspirational recipes to try out ranging from breakfast, desserts, lunch to main course dinners, pasta, smoothies, snacks and soup.
The good news is that their range of products are available through Foodland supermarkets and other retail outlets such as Woolworths around metropolitan and regional South Australia.
The factory is located at Elizabeth South in the northern suburbs of Adelaide, which means local jobs, local produce and local distribution. Great for SA!
Examples of their growers include the South Australian Potato farming business of Parilla Premium Potatoes which operate out of Parilla in the Murray Mallee region of SA. Of more recent times Parilla have been producing something in the vicinity of 1,000 acres of potatoes, some of which are supplied to the SA Gourmet Food Company in their production processes to ensure fresh SA quality ingredients.
When you discover that Alexandrina Cheese and their makers are true craftspeople who take such intricate processes to ensure that their cheese and other products are top class in both taste and quality, you really want to grab and enjoy what they have to offer.
Another successful family multi-generational South Australian business in full flight.
First-generation cheese maker Jerry McCaul passed on his skills to his son, Kevin who had started his cheesemaking career at Ramsay Dairy Company, near Toowoomba in Queensland back in 1963.
Kevin then was head-hunted to South Australia to work for Southern Farmers Co-operative and was appointed as the Chief Superintendent of Cheese factories.
Third generation Dan McCaul was able to commission and develop the current Mount Jagged factory on the Fleurieu Peninsula, making cheese with Jersey milk.
It was in 2001 that Dan and his wife Krystyna established Alexandrina Cheese. Today their children all have some involvement in the business and even some of their grandchildren are helping out to ensure the enterprise thrives.
Dan and Krystyna spent over a decade researching the dairy food manufacturing business and visited Queensland to participate in a cheese-making course with the Department of Primary Industries in 1999.
Today the company produces a large range of boutique cheeses including Edam, Gouda, Feta, Gourmet Shred, Cheddar, Romano and Pepato.
The McCauls soon discovered that to produce the best quality cheeses, the clock would need to be wound back to more traditional methods of cheese making, making the cheeses in an open vat and using varying handmade methods.
Their Alexandrina Edam is unique, being the only manufacturer in mainland Australia making a traditional round Edam cheese.
It is distinctive as it is completely handcrafted, pressed under a heavy metal sheet, moulded in Edam hoops, brine salted and prepared for maturation in traditional red wax, maturing for at least 6 months on wooden shelving.
The Cheddar is cloth wrapped and matured for at least 12 months also on wooden shelves.
Apart from their range of cheeses, Alexandrina Cheese also produce full cream Jersey milk as well as Skim, Creme Fraiche, Honey Yoghurt, and pure Jersey cream.
Unfortunately, their cafe/farm shop is currently closed but the good news is you can order their wonderful range of goodies online.
Their products are also distributed and available across metropolitan and regional South Australia.
Who would have thought that something which started out as a hobby would transform into a thriving successful venture as Spring Gully Foods is today?
Back in 1946 Edward McKee commenced pickling his own home-grown onions which proved so popular, that it became a primary business for him.
Four generations later, the company is still family-owned and operated, and is committed to providing the finest quality ingredients in all of its products.
Today Spring Gully have available a range of around 21 products including some well-known ones, including Sweet Mustard Pickles, Green Tomato Pickle, Sweet Brown Pickled Onions as well as their general Pickled Onions.
Other products that can be obtained are Worcestershire Sauce, Sweet Chili Sauce, Home-Style Tomato Sauce, Sweet Spiced Gherkin Rounds as well as whole Gherkins, Australian Honey, Sour Mustard Pickles, even a Ploughman's Pickle.
Spring Gully also own other food divisions, one of them being Leabrook Farms, which started up back in 1991 in the leafy eastern suburb of Adelaide, Leabrook.
Leabrook Farms have a great catering range of goods, including Australian Dill Cucumbers, Australian Kalamata Olives and Australian Garlic Infused Capsicum.
For those of you who enjoy slow-cooking, Leabrook Farms also provides a great range of slow-cooking sauces to help you put together a relatively easy evening meal. Some of these flavours include Moroccan, Spanish, East African Berbere and Caribbean Jerk.
It's one thing to have the sauces on hand in the pantry but another to create a nutritious and tasty meal. Leabrook Farms website contains some great recipes to help us all bring great food to the table.
The other brand which also comes under the Spring Gully Foods banner is OzeSpreads, which come in various flavours including Strawberry, Orange Marmalade, and Sweet Fig.
The Spring Gully Foods manufacturing premises are out at Dry Creek, north of Adelaide.
Apart from the supermarket aisles, you can also order direct from Spring Gully Foods website.
It's very interesting to think that the original Bickford's products had a connection to health benefits and were promoted as such, by its founder, William Bickford, who had arrived out here in South Australia in February 1839, having met his wife Anne on the ship journey.
William at that time was a 23-year-old Chemist's assistant, and upon arrival, disillusioned by his dream of becoming a sheep grazier, gained employment as a Dispensary assistant on North Terrace in the city.
He then opened one of Adelaide's first stand-alone Apothecaries in Hindley Street. Over the following decade, the business expanded, making the Bickford's a prosperous family, and by then the Bickfords had 7 children.
Sadly, William died from pneumonia at the age of 35 in 1850 and then his wife, Anne continued trading under the Bickford name.
Two of their sons then joined the business and by 1871 the company name became A M Bickford & Sons.
Looking to diversify, the family built the South Australian Cordial factory in 1872 and started producing cordials and soft drinks in 1874. One of the first cordials was the company's still popular Bickford's Lime Juice Cordial.
In 1920 Bickford's first made Coffee and Chicory Essence (today known as Bickford's Iced Coffee Syrup), which was an instant hit, winning a coveted gold medal at the All Australian Exhibition in 1930.
The company thrived during the twentieth century with successive generations involved in the business, manufacturing both beverages as well as pharmaceutical supplies, and even medical equipment.
From 1936 to 1999 the company passed through several changes of ownership, but fortunately, in 1999 the company returned to its rightful status of being a proudly Australian family-owned and managed business.
In 2005 due to continued expansion and growth, the company moved into a purpose-built state-of-the-art manufacturing facility.
The National Trust of SA recognised Bickford's Lime Juice Cordial as a Heritage Icon in 2006.
Over the years the company has gone through an evolution process with the shape and type of bottles used to hold their cordials and drinks, but have realised that the heritage surrounding their company needs to still reflect in its type of bottles used, hence the reason why they have gone back to some of the original shapes and styles of bottles utilised.
Apart from a wide range of cordial flavours such as Lime, Bitter Lemon, Blackcurrant, Cloudy Apple Juice, Ginger Beer, Lemon Lime Bitters, they also produce a Diet range of cordials as well as Sugar-Free options.
It doesn't end there, as Bickford's also manufacture Plant-Based Milks if that is more to your taste.
These include Almond Milk, Macadamia Milk, Oat Milk, and Pistachio Milk. Also, you can buy Premium Juices which not only have great taste but also provide some health benefits, containing vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.
For drink mixing, Bickfords also produce a range of tonics, soda water and ginger ale.
For those of you who are looking for a dairy alternative, there is also a range of great flavours, with Iced Chocolate Almond, Iced Coffee Almond, Iced Coffee Classic and even Violet Crumble Caramel and Chocolate Honeycomb flavoured milk.
The list goes on with their range of Esprits, Aqua Pura Fruit Splashes and Traditional Sodas.
In their manufacturing processes, Bickford's are believed to be one of the few bottling companies in the world to have invested in sterile filtration technologies. What that means is the company can produce a number of products that are free of preservatives that do not need to be pasteurised.
With a whole range of inspiring recipes on their website, you can easily see how you can utilise their diverse range.
Bickford's range of products are widely available through retail outlets however you can also order online via their website.
The manufacturing process is conducted out at Salisbury South, north of Adelaide, with the HQ for the company based here also. They employ around 200 staff around the country.
As a testament to the company's growth and diversity, the Bickfords Group today also own 23rd Distillery at Renmark, Beenleigh Distillers, Pomegranates Australia, Wheel & Barrow, Vok Beverages and Make Wines Australia.
These are some fine examples of locally owned businesses who have thrived and grown from their humble beginnings, so next time you shop, maybe think about where some of your favourite groceries are sourced and wherever possible, support local products and businesses.