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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FALL 2019 41 producer profile LEE ETHERINGTON, CO-FOUNDER, MANAGING DIRECTOR Age: 42 Years in specialty food: 21 Favorite food: Poached eggs from my daughter's hens served on my wife's sourdough sprinkled with Bush Tomato & Mountain Pepper Seasoning. The bush tomatoes are picked by an Aboriginal tribe for me out in the desert, and I grow some of the mountain pepper on my farm. Least favorite food: Oily fish. I wish I loved salmon; it is the most beautiful thing. I try it again and again, but I just hate it. Last thing I ate and loved: Granola, yogurt, and fruit with a bit of honey from my apiary. If I weren't in the food business I'd be: In a lab. I love doing research and am fascinated by cell walls and membranes. Funnily enough, it was this passion that made me good at preserving food. If you can maintain cell structures and walls, then preserved food can be better than fresh. We opened a nine-year-old bottle of hibiscus flowers in syrup on my daughter's ninth birthday and they were still very red and tasty. One piece of advice I'd give to a new food business: #1: Bootstrapping. #2: Be sure your products make other people money. That's how you get distribution. Lime Marmalade and Macadamia Nut & Plum Swirl. Lee's two brothers manage production. Overall the company produces a range of more than 60 products from native Australian ingredients, exporting to 57 countries. Roughly 20 SKUs are sold in the United States. To ramp up production of hibiscus f lowers preserved in syrup, Lee looked into opposite climate zones that could provide another growing season. In 2004, he headed off to Malaysia and found a business part- ner, gained the trust of small-lot farmers, funded an irrigation system for them, and helped build a factory. He said he did it all on credit cards and from pouring the profits they made back into the company. Lee's time in Malaysia showed him "first-hand the very real difference hibis- cus can make in developing countries," he says. "Farmers could get a return on grow-

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