Energy drinks arrived in Australia in the late ’90s. ‘V’ was first launched in New Zealand in 1997 and arrived in Australia later the same year. Red Bull was invented in Austria and first marketed there in 1987. It was launched in Australia in 1999. By 2014 Red Bull now claimed annual sales of approx. 4 billion cans in more than 160 countries. High in caffeine, taurine and sugars, these drinks claim to improve performance, vigilance, reaction speed and concentration.
In 1999, entrepreneur Dick Smith launched Dick Smith Foods. The move was prompted by the increasing foreign ownership of iconic Australian brands such as Vegemite. The range of, mostly, spreads includes Vegemite taste-alike OzEmite, jams, peanut butter and cream cheese spread. Products are promoted as being “as Australian as they can be”, as some ingredients are, of necessity, imported.
The truly Australian touch in this burger was the addition of beetroot. The McOz consisted of a burger patty with beetroot, lettuce, tomato, onion, Cheddar cheese, ketchup and mustard. It was discontinued in 2008, then reintroduced in 2011. In New Zealand, it’s called a Kiwiburger and includes an egg.
In 1999, Australians drank 113 litres of soft drink per person per year, or 300 ml per person per day (ABS). An international survey in 2002 put Australia sixth in the world for soft drink consumption, consuming an average of 100.1 litres each per year. This was still less than half of the 216 litres consumed by the average American.
If Jamie Oliver was all about energy, Nigella Lawson was all about sensuality. Her first book, How to Eat, had the tone of a one-on-one conversation and when she made her TV debut in 1999 male viewers, in particular, were immediately hooked. She became a culinary superstar, each program ending with a late night raid on the fridge and lots of finger licking.
The Great Vanilla Slice Triumph began in Ouyen in 1998 after then-Victorian premier Geoff Kennett claimed the vanilla slice from the town’s Mallee Bakery was the best he’d ever tasted. Over the years the competition attracted entries from around the state and even from South Australia. In 2012 it moved to Merbein. More
Jane Adams is a food writer and marketing consultant. In 1998 she won a research fellowship to study markets in the US. She came back an enthusiast and began to deliver workshops to farmers and the community. She has been instrumental in introducing farmers’ markets to rural, regional and urban communities and is chairman of the Australian Farmers’ Market Association.
The Sydney Morning Herald sponsored Sydney’s Good Food Month in October as an adjunct to their Good Food Guide. The festival included night noodle markets, picnics, market tours and special events at restaurants. Good Food Month was replaced by the Sydney International Food Festival as part of Crave Sydney in 2009.
Aimed primarily at bringing international food and travel media to Australia, Tasting Australia was held in conjunction with the Food Media Awards. The event has been running approximately every two years since 1997 and involves a public food festival, talks, classes, dinners and a range of other events. Tasting Australia is attended by around 50,000 people.
Jamie Oliver became The Naked Chef. The impossibly jaunty young chef received his big break from appearing on television as part of a documentary on London’s River Café. He went on to found a food empire and embrace food-related social causes, winning an MBE in 2003. Despite his good works, how can you possibly warm to someone who calls his kids Poppy Honey and Daisy Boo?
The American Campbell’s Soup Company took full control of Australian icon, Arnott’s in 1997. Campbell’s had been increasing its stake in the company since the 1980s when Arnott’s sought backing to avoid a takeover by Nabisco. The Arnott family had retained an interest in the company but a failed foray into snack foods and a slump in the Australian economy forced the eventual sale.
A group of scientists in Scotland successfully cloned a Finn Dorset sheep from an adult cell. The sheep was named “Dolly”, apparently after Dolly Parton. The cloned sheep lived to have several healthy lambs, but died at the age of six from a lung disease. (The natural lifespan of the average sheep is 8-10 years, but according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest sheep lived to be 23. She was a Merino.)
Stephanie Alexander’s opus, The Cook’s Companion, subtitled ‘The complete book of ingredients and recipes for the Australian kitchen’ went on to have seven print runs between 1996 and 1999. It has sold nearly 400,000 copies. A revised edition was published in 2004, containing 300 new recipes and 12 new chapters.
The term “Modern Australian” first appeared in the Age and Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guides in 1996. This description replaced various terms including ‘International’, ‘Modern’, “Individual’ and ‘New Style’.
Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network set up. The Network was started by Dr Darren Phillips and is an informal, Australia-wide network of people interested in community gardens, city farms, urban agriculture and community education centres. The network is a volunteer organisation with no office holders and relies on informal members and participants to provide information and to organise activities.
Sunday trading was introduced on ten Sundays per year in 1991. In 1992, stores in the Melbourne CBD were permitted to trade on Sundays and this was extended to selected ‘tourist precincts’ in 1993. In 1996, retail trading in Victoria was effectively deregulated, with the exception of certain public holidays: Christmas Day, Good Friday and Anzac Day.
The US coffee chain Gloria Jeans opened two stores in Sydney in 1996 and by 2003 was trading in every state in Australia. It was subsequently bought by the Hillsong Church and has made a success of its franchised operation. There are still more than 500 Gloria Jeans outlets in Australia. Many are located in shopping malls, picking up the day-time shoppers.
Woolworths moves into petrol – the first of the supermarket giants to move into the fuel business, by establishing its own Petrol Plus brand. The first outlet opened in Dubbo in 1996. In 2003, Coles announced its joint venture with Shell, offering discounts via shopper dockets. This was followed by the Woolworths/Caltex alliance.
Heston Blumenthal opened The Fat Duck in the English town of Bray. It was named best restaurant in the world in 2005 by Restaurant magazine’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list and hovered around the top spot for many years. In 2012 it ranks No. 13. The Fat Duck may be the most blogged about restaurant in the world.
In South Australia, an E.coli outbreak among people who had eaten contaminated Garibaldi metwurst killed one four year old child and put 24 other people in hospitals, leading to a new focus on food safety. Many victims are still suffering long-term health effects. Their damages claims dragged on in the courts until 2010.
Slow Food Australia operates through a series of convivia, each mandated directly from the Italian headquarters in Bra, Italy. The first convivium was set up in the Barossa Valley, South Australia by Maggie Beer in 1995. As of 2012, Slow Food in Australia had 31 convivia, or branches, with all activities coordinated by volunteers.
The Australian Capital Territory was the first jurisdiction in Australia to ban smoking in restaurants. Smoking was still permitted in outdoor areas, which led to heavily rugged up diners sitting outside on cold Canberra evenings. In 2009, the legislation was extended to include outside areas where food and drink are served.
Fly Buys was a joint venture between Coles Myer, Shell and the National Australia Bank, offering flights in return for points earned at the companies’ retail outlets and by using the National’s Mastercard. A million Australian households joined within the first six weeks. Fly Buys remains Australia’s largest loyalty program, with more than 10 million cardholders in more than 5.5 million households.
The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs must authorise the use of the term Anzac. In 1994 a general policy relating to biscuit products was adopted. While recognising that the names ‘Anzac biscuit’ and ‘Anzac slice’ have been in general use in Australia for many years, it stated that “approvals for the word ‘Anzac’ to be used on biscuit products have been given provided that the product generally conforms to the traditional recipe and shape, and is not used in association with the word ‘cookies’, with its non-Australian overtones. For instance, an application for Anzac biscuits dipped in chocolate would not be approved as they would not conform with the traditional recipe.”
The FlavrSavr® tomato became the first commercially grown, genetically engineered food to be licensed for human consumption by the US Food and Drug Administration. The product was mostly marketed in California, but was not a success and was eventually withdrawn. The company that developed the FlavrSavr, Calgene, was bought by Monsanto.
Chef Peter Doyle,realising that the old-style formality is out-of-step with the times, transforms Sydney institution Le Trianon into Cicada. Dishes included: roasted beetroot, blood orange, red witlof and asparagus; and slow-cooked beef cheeks with celeriac and field mushrooms.
Two Tasmanians started Perigord Truffles of Tasmania, the first truffle farming operation in Australia. They inoculated the roots of oak and hazelnut seedlings with spores from imported French truffles, established a small plantation, and waited. It would take six years to see the first truffle. Despite an asking price of around $2500 a kilogram, you couldn’t call it a get rich quick scheme.
Jill Dupleix’s New Food was based, so the author said, on new information and ideas we can all live by, like eating our mistakes, using non stick pans, refusing to buy anything called instant and never apologising for our food. This fresh approach initiated a new surge of Australian cook books.
In an acknowledgement of Melbourne’s status as the coffee capital of Australia, McDonalds opened the first McCafé in the world here. The concept was introduced in 16 other countries before the first US McCafé opened in Chicago in 2001. A survey conducted in 2011 showed that McCafe rated better than other popular coffee chains. It certainly helps when you’re heading up the highway.
As economic hard times hit the fine dining scene, several iconic Melbourne restaurants closed, including Fanny’s in Lonsdale Street.
The kitchen staff from Berowra Waters Inn restaurant, under the leadership of Gay Bilson, make a tablecloth of raw tripe for the Symposium of Gastronomy, which took place at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Bilson’s desire to serve a sausage made of her own blood was, perhaps fortunately for those who attended, rejected by the symposium’s organisers.
As a result of take-overs and consolidations among the big corporates, at this point, 60% of Australia’s food market was shared by only 20 food manufacturing companies.
Oxford Professor of Physics, Nicholas Kurti, and French physical chemist and magazine editor, Hervé This, coined the term molecular gastronomy. American food science writer Harold McGee and English cookery teacher Elizabeth Cawdry Thomas were also involved in conducting early workshops for chefs on the physics and chemistry of cooking. Foams, gels, dirts and ‘caviars’ resulted.
An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report in 1994 quoted industry sources that put 1992 market shares of butter and margarine at 26.1 per cent and 73.9 per cent respectively. By 2015, Roy Morgan research showed that butter was making a comeback, with more people buying butter than margarine.
The United Kingdom acceded to the European Economic Community in 1973 beginning a new focus for Australian exporters. The formation of the European Union further reduced opportunities for export to Europe and led to an increased focus on Asian markets.
By this time Australia had 5541 supermarkets and 402 convenience stores. However, according to an Australian Supermarket Institute survey in 1992, although 36% of people were buying fresh fruit and vegetables at supermarkets, 56% were still buying at greengrocers.
The Western Australian fast food chain Red Rooster was merged with its eastern rival, Big Rooster, expanding the brand into the eastern states. The big drawcard for kids was the wedges, at that time virtually unknown in Australia. Sadly, they are no longer on the menu.
Greg Malouf started cooking upmarket Middle Eastern food at O’Connell’s Hotel in South Melbourne, redefining the possibilities of this cuisine. ‘Gastro-pubs’ were becoming more common, with more diverse and challenging menus replacing the traditional parmigiana. O’Connell’s regulars, however, would still hit the front bar at lunchtime, for white bread steak sandwiches.
The Foundation for Rabbit Free Australia (RFA) developed and registered the Easter Bilby campaign in December 1991. The aim was to raise awareness of the damage rabbits do to native wildlife, and to raise money from royalties of Easter Bilby to fund research programs. In 1993, Haigh’s Chocolates in Adelaide stopped making chocolate Easter bunnies and made the first Easter Bilby, donating part of the proceeds to RFA.
Supermarkets and other retailers were permitted to open 6am to midnight seven days a week or even, in some places, 24 hours a day.Extended retail trading hours further casualised the workforce – in 1992, 30% of 17 year old boys and 40% of 17 year old girls had a part time job, mostly in retail or in fast food.
At the request of the organic industry, the Australian government sought to establish a national organic standard for production and export marketing. In 1991, the AQIS national standard for organic and biodynamic produce was established and remains the basis for today’s Australian Certified Organic Standard. At that time 491 Australian food producers gained organic certification.
The Orange F.O.O.D. Week was initially held in April 1991 with a small number of visionary Orange producers and chefs, and eight winemakers. It now includes 10 days of dinners, lunches, tastings, presentations and markets that showcase the food and wine of the Orange region, hosted by wineries and restaurants. There’s even the F.O.O.D. train, leaving Sydney Friday morning and returning Sunday evening.
With health-consciousness increasing, Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to eliminate the ‘F’ word. It became KFC. No longer ‘Finger-lickin’ good’, the brand line became ‘I like it like that’. Stories that the name was changed because the state of Kentucky trademarked its name and demanded a franchise fee were widely circulated but cannot be confirmed.
The new food giant, National Foods, was created by the Adelaide Steamship Company by amalgamating several dairy and food-related businesses with brand names and histories dating back to the 19th century. National Foods was part of an increasing concentration of ownership of food manufacture and marketing in Australia.
The new National Food Authority promoted cooperation between governments, industry and the community to provide a safe and wholesome food supply. In particular, the aim was to provide uniformity and consolidation of food standards across Australia. It is now known as Food Standards Australia New Zealand.
David Thompson opened Darley Street Thai in Sydney’s St Peters, taking Thai food up-market for the first time. The restaurant later moved to Bayswater Road, Kings Cross. The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide named it Best Thai Restaurant every year for the eight years it was open. Thompson later opened Sailor’s Thai in The Rocks.
Cheap and cheerful was the order of the day as the recession bit. Part of the international chain, The Hard Rock Café opened in Sydney, with chirpy wait staff, American-style menu and rock memorabilia. In 1991 it was followed by Planet Hollywood. The original Hard Rock Café Sydney closed in 2007 but has been revived by new franchisees. Planet Hollywood survives overseas (after two bankruptcies) but its Australian restaurants are long gone.
Franklins was the first of the big grocery chains to use barcode scanners at all checkouts.
The Dairy Corporation began its osteoporosis campaign, talking about calcium intake. Although milk had always been touted as giving you strong bones, the new campaign was more specific about the likelihood and effects of an osteoporosis ‘epidemic’. Research indicated that people were avoiding dairy products owing to concerns about heart health and weight control.
Arnott’s Tiny Teddy biscuits hit the market, becoming the most successful product launch in the company’s history. More than five million biscuits were sold in little more than a month. It was a miniature version of the Teddy Bear biscuit, first produced by Guest’s and popular since the 1920s.
Studies showed that peanut allergy in children increased from 0.5 to 1.5% between 1989 and 1994-6 in the UK and 0.6 % to 1.2 % between 1997 and 2002 in the USA. At the same time, in Australia, admissions to hospital for food allergies increased significantly. As Australians became more concerned about food allergies, intolerances, and the effects of chemicals and food additives, demand for more information on packaging increased.
Organics exploded and the big supermarket chains began to stock organic fruit and vegetables. In 1990, the retail organic market was estimated at AUS$39 million while data from the certifying organisations put the total farmgate value of organic production in 2000/01 at AUS$89 million.
Although generally held to be invented in 1924 by the eponymous Caesar Cardini at his hotel and restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, this famous dish took decades to appear beyond the USA’s west coast. In the late ’80s, it popped up more and more on Australian menus and by 1990 was ubiquitous. Most Australian versions of the Caesar Salad used hard-boiled or poached egg, rather than the raw or coddled egg that caused the state of California to ban the salad in the late ’90s, for health reasons. The ban was lifted in 1998.
Individually packaged, ready-made meals and snacks appear in increasing numbers in the supermarket. Microwave pasteurisation techniques extended the shelf-life of pre-packaged refrigerated foods, offering “minimal processing” plus assured microbiological safety for pre-packaged meals.