Specialty Food Magazine

FALL 2019

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Winter Fancy Food Show Booth #646 so I could see the universal appeal of it—if I could get it right." Traditionally, hibiscus has been used for making tea, popular across cultures for its tart f lavor and garnet hue. There is evidence that ancient Egyptians valued it for medicinal purposes; it's also said to be a folk remedy for lowering blood pressure and a source of vitamin C. Several hundred species are grown in tropical and subtropical climates, but not all of them are for con- sumption. To Lee's knowledge, it had never been employed as a commercial cocktail garnish. One of the problems of finding a contin- uous supply, Lee discovered, was Australia's short, two-to-three–month growing season. He learned how to cultivate them himself and enlisted local farmers to plant more. The operation proved to be labor intensive since the f lowers had to be picked at the perfect size or they'd be too big to fit in a Champagne f lute. Furthermore, the bloom's woody seed pod had to be carefully cut out and washed inside and out without breaking off any petals. In the early days, Lee could not keep up with demand, especially when Christmas approached. "I would end up with terribly upset ladies on the phone crying after being told I had sold out," he says. "They would say I had ruined their whole Christmas plans because it was all based around hibis- cus f lowers in Champagne and how could I let this happen? Funny, but not funny. It happened for years." In the meantime, the Etheringtons (Jocelyn left a corporate career to focus on the family business) had another revenue stream from sales of Lilli Pilli Conserve, a spread of native Australian berries, cane sugar, apple, and fresh lemon juice, sold under their Kurrajong Australian Native Foods label. Lee developed the recipe in his mother's kitchen and before long was pro- ducing hundreds of liters of it. First sold at a local farmers market, the brand has grown to offer scores of products, including Finger 40 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com producer profile TIMELINE — 1998 Lee Etherington creates bush food spreads from native products in his mother's kitchen, makes his first batch of Lilli Pilli Conserve and starts selling it at farmers markets, co-hosts a dinner party where hibiscus flowers are dropped into Champagne flutes, the eureka moment for a specialty food business. — 1999 Launches Kurrajong Australian Native Foods. — 2004 Starts exporting to the U.K.; the hibiscus growers' network expands to Malaysia. — 2005 Wild Hibiscus Flower Company is born and becomes the core of the business. — 2007 Jocelyn Etherington joins the management team while pregnant with the first of the family's three children. — 2008 Builds factory in Australia to process the wild hibiscus flowers; starts exporting to the U.S. — 2010 Enlists farming families in Thailand to grow hibiscus and builds a new factory in Thailand for them to use. — 2014 Introduces butterfly pea flowers and b'Lure extract to the U.S. market. — 2018 Launches Lotus Root Specialty Garnish in the U.S. market in three colors: red (Hibiscus & Ginger Syrup), white (Gin Spiced Pickle Juice) and blue (Butterfly Pea & Elderflower Syrup).

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