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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Serving delights from Down Under

It’s been almost a year since the UK’s first post-Brexit, free-trade deal was struck with Australia. Ana Nishnianidze shines a spotlight on the new wave of exciting food brands capturing consumer hearts, thanks to the landmark agreement

 

When the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) entered into force on 31 May 2023, it brought an immediate end to tariffs on more than 99 percent of goods exported from Australia into the UK.

Since entry into force, Australian food items listed in the FTA have grown by 11 percent.

Historically, Australia and the UK are major trading partners, but tariffs imposed in recent decades meant that food and drink exports to the UK represented only one to two percent of all Australian exports. Now that tariffs are removed on most major food categories, we expect that this percentage will grow significantly over the next few years.

We’re already seeing increased interest from major UK retailers and restaurants in most Australian food and drink products, particularly in categories such as honey, confectionary, health foods and spirits. Our fresh produce, unique seafood range and premium meat cuts are also in demand, this is particularly exciting because many of these products are completely new to the UK market and tap into current UK consumer trends.

Australia’s biodiversity infuses native honeys with powerful medicinal properties

The 16 percent tariff on Australia’s natural honey was removed upon entry into force of the FTA. As a result, there has been a 90 percent increase in exports until January 2024 compared to the year before.

Australian honeys do well in the UK market because the rich floral biodiversity of Australia’s native bushland, with a high concentration of rare flower species, produces bioactive honeys with scientifically proven medicinal properties, low GI and higher antimicrobial properties than many other honeys.

While Manuka honey has gained global popularity as one of nature’s sweetest superfoods, there are even more varieties of Australian honeys with exceptional medicinal benefits gaining popularity with health-conscious consumers across the globe.

Jarrah, Karri and Marri honey are found nowhere else in the world. These varieties are sourced from native flowering trees in Western Australia’s famed south-west biodiversity hotspot, where more than 8000 rare species of wildflowers bloom.

These trees flower only once every few years, so there is an exclusive and limited supply available.

Australian Rare’s limited edition, luxury honey range is currently stocked in Harrods. Its single origin honey is raw unprocessed and cold extracted, with each batch carefully selected by a team of experts, scientists and sommeliers.

More Australian honey producers are now looking to enter the UK market. Forest Fresh has recently won a Great Taste Award for its raw bioactive honeys. At last month’s International Food & Drink Event (IFE) in London, the company launched its new superfood product line, infusing delicious and nutritious flavours, some of which are native to Australia.

These include cacao and chilli, cacao and Kakadu plum, truffle, ginseng, chilli, turmeric, ginger and pepper, ginger and lemon, cinnamon and Kakadu plum.

Australian seaweed pasta, pulled mushrooms and keto crackers tap into UK consumer demand for healthy, innovative products

This year, we’ve seen particular success for Australia’s innovative health food companies. On the back of increased consumer demand in the UK for healthy alternatives and dietary products that taste good, we’ve seen a range of exciting new products enter the UK market.

PhycoHealth for example uses sustainably farmed Australian seaweed to create seaweed pasta, muesli, kombucha and fruit straps. Their range is available at Holland & Barrett.

In March 2024, PhycoHealth won the IFE Food Manufacturing Ingredients Award for most innovative protein source. Their product PhycoTein is the world’s first green seaweed protein rich ingredient, packed with essential amino acids, iron, and B12 – nutrients that are often rare in plant-based proteins.

Another success story is Australia’s Fable Food. Fable reimagines mushrooms. It is made from Shiitake mushrooms whose dense, fleshy fibres and umami flavours are naturally meat-like. Fable’s plant-based meaty pulled mushrooms have the texture of slow-cooked ‘beef’.

Fable is available in shops across the UK, including at Holland & Barrett and Planet Organic. They’ve also partnered up with restaurants such as Honest Burgers and Côte Brasserie.

One Australian health food company to watch is Keep Keto. Global interest in the ketogenic diet is expected to continue growing, with the market projected to reach US$12 billion by 2028.

Keep Keto was founded in 2017 by pharmacist and medical scientist Katherine Kwee. Their vegan keto crackers, relishes and jams are low carb, keto, gluten free and refined sugar free.

Keep Keto is rapidly expanding internationally with a presence in the US, the Middle East and Asia. They’re now looking at expanding into the UK market. Their delicious snacks have already attracted significant interest from UK retailers.

Australia’s unique seafood offering gains stronger foothold in the UK

Australian seafood companies also increasingly target the UK market following the immediate removal of tariffs on most seafood categories when the FTA entered into force. This includes the removal of the 14 percent tariff on toothfish, the eight percent tariff on octopus, the 12 percent tariff on lobster and the 20 percent tariff on salmon and trout roe.

Since June 2023, several Australian products have launched into retail channels. Among early popular products were Austral Fisheries’ Glacier 51 Toothfish now available in both Selfridges and Whole Foods stores, with the latter retailer also now offering Marine Stewardship Council-certified Fremantle octopus, which is caught in waters around Western Australia using a patented trigger trap. Since its invention, the trigger trap has become the dominant gear type in Australia’s octopus fishing industry. It is designed to only catch octopus and prevents other sea creatures from becoming trapped.

Austral’s Glacier 51 Toothfish is a truly unique product. In the past, people have compared it to Chilean sea bass, but its taste, texture, and flavour profile is very different. It has been recognised by renowned chefs around the world and is served at high-end restaurants such as Nobu, Sexy Fish and Rockpool.

With retailers like Marks & Spencer (M&S) and online grocer Ocado expressing interest in Australian seafood lines, these products could soon be a lot more accessible and readily available to UK consumers.

Yarra Valley Caviar is another Australian seafood company that has found success in the UK recently. In April 2024, the company officially launched in London’s Harrods. Their product range is now also available through UK-based independent retailer Fine & Wild.

Located at the base of the Rubicon River in the Yarra Valley region of rural Victoria in Australia, Yarra Valley Caviar produces high quality First Harvest Salmon Roe, Smoked Salmon Roe and Trout Roe.

Yarra Valley Caviar uses a bespoke breed of atlantic salmon, purely bred to be humanely hand-harvested once a year, creating bright, plump pearls.

It is already the salmon roe of choice for leading restaurants worldwide and the brand was most recently selected by Chef Miller Prada of one Michelin starred restaurant and wood-fired dining concept HUMO in Mayfair in London. It will appear on the menu from May 2024.

Quality-wise, Yarra Valley Caviar has sat above other salmon roe for some years, but it wasn’t until the FTA entered into force that significant retail and foodservice opportunities materialised in the UK market.

One Australian seafood supplier to watch is Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative. In April 2024 they launched their new range of retail-ready Brolos Australian lobster products.

The innovative range marries old-world craftsmanship and industry-leading production techniques to deliver five sustainably sourced, premium lobster varieties. These include individually packed whole cooked and raw lobster, split lobster halves and raw lobster tails.

Brolos Lobster has built a global reputation as a premium, sustainable rock lobster producer. Their rock lobster products have been served in some of the finest hotels and restaurants for decades, so it’s fantastic that consumers are now able to enjoy this delicious product at home.

The UK is a long-term partner that values the sustainability credentials of Australia’s food and drink suppliers

The number of Australian products available in the UK is likely to continue rising as word spreads throughout the market and demand grows among consumers for premium offerings that are a bit out of the ordinary to them.

We’re seeing a big push from industry. The UK is seen as a long-term, trusted partner for Australian suppliers. They also see the UK as a partner that recognises the quality of Australia’s products and one that’s looking for that premium level, as well as one that has similar values around sustainability, environmental impact, animal welfare and social responsibilities.

For example, Austral Fisheries, producers of the Glacier 51 Toothfish, was the first seafood company in the world to achieve carbon neutral status in 2016. Similarly, the Western Rock Lobster commercial fishing industry led by Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative was the world’s first fishery to be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for sustainable fishing practices.

These credentials are valued in Australia across industries, Fable Food’s operations are 100 percent carbon neutral. PhycoHealth helps reduce the carbon footprint of neighbouring food processors by capturing CO2, nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients and harnessing their nutritional power for their seaweed farm. This effectively creates a closed-loop sustainable industrial ecology system.

Overall, the FTA has generated significant increased interest both on the Australian supplier and UK buyer side. While it’s been exciting to see new Australian products in UK shops and on restaurant menus this year, we expect that UK consumers will discover many more unique Australian products in the years to come.

For further information, contact: london@austrade.gov.au

Ana Nishnianidze is the Trade & Investment Commissioner, UK and Ireland, for the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade)

 

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