As question marks were raised about eggs as high-cholesterol food, The Victorian Egg Board enlisted the services of artist, author and television chef Peter Russell-Clarke to promote their product. He published an Egg Cook Book in 1979 and it is claimed that sales of eggs rose 5 per cent in three years. More
The first supermarket to adopt barcode scanning in Australia was SIMS supermarket in Melbourne’s western suburbs. It’s not recorded which product was the first to be scanned. Manufacturers and retailers formed the Australian Product Numbering Association in 1978 and, by 1986, 90 per cent of grocery items sold in Australia carried barcodes.
Chicken salt is as Australian as Vegemite, although with a shorter history. It was invented by Peter Brinkworth in the early 1970s, as seasoning for the roast chickens he sold in his Gawler, South Australia, chicken shop. The Mitani family bought Brinkworth’s business in 1979 and, with it, acquired the recipe for chicken salt. The seasoning went on to become the preferred sprinkle for hot chips across Australia. In 1979, Mitani began to sell the product commercially to the take-away food industry. More
The first Ali Baba kebab restaurant opened in 1979 outside the Woden Plaza in Canberra’s inner south. It was founded by Lebanese brothers Mick and Karl Marjan. They opened two more restaurants in Canberra during the 1980s – at Belconnen and in the city – and in 1989 began a franchising operation offering take-away kebabs. By 2007 it was Australia’s largest kebab and wrap chain. More
What’s a product invented in England and sold as an import in Australia for most of its recorded history doing in this timeline? Well, Claytons isn’t just a drink. It has become part of the Australian language, following a famous television commercial first aired in 1979. Promoted as The drink you have when you’re not having a drink, ‘Claytons’ became code for something that was a poor shadow or ersatz version of what it should be. More
American nutritionist Nathan Pritikin’s book, The Pritikin Program For Diet And Exercise, spent a year on the New York Times’ bestseller list. The program required that you cut out salt, sugar, fat, caffeine and alcohol and limit the amount of red meat in your diet. As a result, it promised, you would live to play tennis with your grandchildren. As one dieter commented “You may not live longer on the Pritikin Program, but it certainly feels like longer.” More
In 1978, Australia’s first McDonald’s Drive-Thru opened in Warrawong, New South Wales. This was just three years after their first American drive-thru, which opened in Arizona in 1975. It’s suggested that the Sierra Vista drive-thru was set up to cater to customers from the nearby military base who weren’t permitted to get out of their cars while wearing fatigues.
Big M flavoured milk was launched in Victoria with overtly sexy imagery of milk running down the cleavage of girls in skimpy bikinis. It competed directly with Coca Cola as a cool teenage drink. The four initial flavours were Chocolate, Banana, Iced Coffee and Strawberry, followed later in the year by Blueberry. The equivalent drink in NSW was Moove, launched the same year. More
REV milk was low fat and high calcium and aimed at young adults. In 1988, Lite White milk was launched in New South Wales and distributed to 85% of the state. Lite White was a success, with a growth of 150% in its second year. The milk was initially aimed at health-conscious 18-39 year-olds. By 1989 reduced and low fat milk held 12.5% of total milk sales.
The Décor Insulated Wine Carrier with wine chiller was the essential accoutrement for visits to BYO restaurants. It was designed by Richard Carlson to hold two bottles of wine or four drink cans and had a removable chiller pack between the bottles to keep the drinks cold. Manufactured by Décor, an Australian homewares company, it was awarded an Australian Design Award in 1979 and the Prince Philip Prize in 1980. More
The Champagne Diet, published in Australian Vogue, made much of the fact that champagne was the least fattening of all drinks, with just 35 calories a glass, compared to 170 calories for a gin and tonic. The stringent diet regime, clearly a nutritionist’s nightmare, allowed for four glasses of champagne a day, plus a couple of brandies. And not much else: an egg, a small serve of seafood, a few crispbreads and salad. Still, who needs food if you have champagne? More
Sarah Stegley and Marieke Brugman owned and operated the Howqua Dale Gourmet Retreat, at Mansfield in central Victoria for 30 years as a gourmet retreat and cooking school. Howquadale was one of the first places to offer a pre-packaged weekend getaway based around food. More
Iain Hewittson and Sigmund Jorgenson started the influential Clichy restaurant in unfashionable Collingwood. The restaurant menu experimented with nouvelle cuisine, described as “original food in the French manner’. The wine list featured the wines of Victoria alongside French wines – a first for Melbourne. More
Farmers Union Iced Coffee is a flavoured milk manufactured in South Australia, where it has iconic status along with other local specialties such as frog cakes and pie floaters. It is the only milk drink anywhere in the world to outsell Coca Cola in its home market and is now available nationally. The brand is now owned by Japanese company Kirin. More
The first 7-Eleven convenience store opened in the Melbourne suburb of Oakleigh on 24 August and within a year there were several 7-Eleven stores trading beyond the 7am to 11pm suggested by the name. Along with 7-Eleven stores came the dreaded Slurpee, a brand owned by 7-Eleven and one that has spawned a whole culture of its own. More
There had been community gardens in the past, during times of war and depression, but the first Australian community garden or recent times was established in the Melbourne suburb of Nunawading in 1977. It was inspired by the UK’s garden allotment scheme. There were 65 four metre by nine metre garden allotments and plots were offered a one-year renewable lease at a cost of $22 plus a $3 membership fee. More
The Breville Kitchen Wizz food processor was an affordable Australian version of the European MagiMix. It was one of the time-saving appliances designed to make life easier for working women, who wanted to impress at dinner parties but no longer wanted to make pastry by hand, or spend tedious hours grating vegetables or pushing ingredients through sieves. More
Ho-Lo milk was the first low-fat specialty milk to be launched on the New South Wales market and a few years later was marketed in the Australian Capital Territory. It had high calcium and high protein, and was promoted as useful for people who were trying to lower the cholesterol in their diets. The “Hi” aspect of the name referred to the addition of milk solids made up of protein, minerals and lactose. Boosting the milk solids also increased the calcium content. More
There were earlier recipes called Apricot Chicken, but the first I can find for the 1970s classic with the standard three ingredients – chicken, apricot nectar and French onion soup – is in 1976. It was not an exclusively Australian phenomenon: The Arizona Sun in the USA ran an identical recipe in 1975. More
Australia’s first muesli bar was the Uncle Tobys Toasted Muesli Crunchola Bar, launched in 1976. It was a jolly good chew and was replaced by less jaw-breaking versions including an apricot-flavoured bar and the moister Honey ‘n Oats bar. Relaunched in 1983 they were known simply as Muesli Bars and swim star Lisa Curry-Kenny became the spokesperson for the brand. More
The best thing since sliced bread was sliced cheese. Kraft Singles, individually wrapped slices of processed cheddar were launched in Australia in 1976. Various varieties are now available. An attempt was made in the 1990s to combine two leading Kraft products in the form of Vegemite Singles. The Vegemite-flavoured cheese slices did not prove popular and were taken off the market. More
By 1976, a million people were leaving Australia annually to travel overseas. They now travelled by air, not by sea, and returned with food preferences influenced by Europe or places along the hippy trail from Kathmandu to London. The increase in overseas travel continued. There were 1.3 million departures in 1983 and 3.4 million per year by 2003. More
The first Thai restaurant in Australia was the Bahn Thai, which opened in Melbourne’s St Kilda Road in June 1976. It was closely followed by the ‘Siam’ in Sydney, and another Thai restaurant in Perth. The Patee Thai restaurant, in Fitzroy, is the oldest Thai Restaurant still operating in Melbourne. It opened in 1983. By the end of the 1980s, Thai cuisine began to rival Chinese as a casual dining choice.
One of the few politicians to publish a cookbook , the Premier of South Australia favoured an eclectic and informal style of cooking, rather than the stuffy, formal French approach. Don Dunstan’s Cookbook included Indian and Malay dishes, as well as French, Italian, Greek and Swedish ones. He saw this multicultural mix as a distinctly Australian cooking style. More
Gilbert Lau was part-owner of the Empress of China restaurant in Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, one of the first upmarket Chinese restaurants in the city. He left to open the Flower Drum, which became renowned as one of Melbourne’s finest restaurants and was eventually recognised as one of the world’s top restaurants by Restaurant magazine in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005. Lau sold the Flower Drum Restaurant in 2003. More
The famous “you oughta be congratulated” advertising campaign was designed to assure mums that Meadow Lea Margarine would not only help their families to avoid the evils of butter, but actually tasted good. Created by Alan Morris and Alan Johnson – the “Mo” and “Jo” of Mojo Advertising – it became one of the most famous campaigns of its time. More
With a campaign featuring Gina Lollobrigida, Leggo’s changed its heritage from Cornish (Leggo is a Cornish name) to Italian. Abandoning recipes for cottage pie and Chilli Con Carne, future advertising focused on Italian dishes. Tomato paste formed the basis for many of these recipes. The first Leggo’s Italian-style sauces were launched in 1975. More
Back in the days when we hadn’t heard of the degustation menu, partners Alistair Herbert and Camillo Haffar opened Baxter Provender in a country cottage 6km south of Frankston, Victoria. Diners ate what came from the kitchen, although the main course was ordered in advance. It was a new kind of dining experience for Australians, described by some as akin to eating in a French auberge. The weekend banquets were famously excessive but in 1984 the restaurant scaled back its offering to daily lunches.
The savoury slice is a truly regional dish, apparently found only in a tiny pocket of South Australia around the town of Murray Bridge. It was reportedly invented in the early 1970s (some say 1975) by the original owner of what is now McCue’s bakery. It consists of two sheets of puff pastry sandwiched together with minced meat gravy, topped with cheese and bacon bits and baked. It is often eaten in a flat white roll. More
On 1 March 1975 Australian television stations officially moved to colour. Colour TV had been around for a while overseas and there had been experimental telecasts in Australia. Some advertisers were quick to capitalise on the potential to show their products in appetising colour while others resisted the additional cost involved. More
A replacement for the old-fashioned jaffle iron, the Breville Snack’n’Sandwich Toaster sold 400,000 and was snapped up by 10 per cent of Australian households in its first year on the market. It allowed toasted sandwiches to be made quickly and with no mess. The appliance was popular overseas and was eventually named as one of British TV personality Stephen Fry’s 100 best gadgets.
After a long dry(ish) spell during the depression years of the 1930s, beer consumption grew rapidly during the wartime years. Throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, Aussies drank even more. In 1974-5 per capita beer consumption reached its peak of 140.3 litres a year for every person over 15. By 2013/14, this figure had fallen to 92.37 litres, a 60-year low. More
On June 26, at 8:01 a.m, Sharon Buchanan, a check-out operator at Marsh’s supermarket in Troy, Ohio scanned the first product with a barcode: a pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum. The pack is now preserved at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. Barcode scanning took some time to reach Australia. More
Pink Lady® is a trade-marked name for an apple variety known as Cripps Pink. The apple was developed by horticulturalist John Cripps, by crossing the Golden Delicious apple with the Australian variety Lady Williams. Although the variety emerged in 1974, the Pink Lady trademark was not registered until 1989. More
The Bankcard brand was shared by Australian financial institutions and was Australia’s first generally available credit card. At launch, banks mailed Bankcards to all their eligible customers causing an outcry about security. Bankcard dominated the credit card market for around ten years, although it could only be used in Australia and New Zealand. With the introduction of the internationally accepted Visa and Mastercard, Bankcard began to decline. It was discontinued in 2006.
By the early ’70s supermarkets had 50% share of the grocery market, a substantial increase since 1968-69, when a third of the groceries in Australia were sold in supermarkets. In 1973, Woolworths had 20% of the Australian grocery market, followed by Coles with 14%. The Davids group, which included Supa Valu and Foodland, had 5%, Franklins had 4%, and the Western Australian group FAL 1%. The remaining 55% was shared by other retailers. More
Crock-Pot is a brand name for a bench-top electric slow cooker. The idea dates back to 1940 in the USA when Irving Nachumsohn (known as Naxon) patented a similar device that eventually went to market as the Naxon Beanery. In 1972, it was re-launched in America as the Crock-Pot and seems to have first appeared in Australia under the Monier brand in 1973. More
Free school milk continued long beyond my primary school days, until a report to the government in 1973 deemed it poor value for money. While it came too late for me, I regard the abolition of school milk as one of the finer achievements of the Whitlam government, up there with free university education and bringing the troops home from Vietnam.
The United Kingdom acceded to the European Economic Community in 1973 beginning a new focus for Australian exporters. The formation of the European Union in 1992 further reduced opportunities for export to Europe and led to an increased focus on Asian markets. More
The ceiling upstairs at Shakahari was silver insulation foil. There was brown rice a-plenty. The food was wholemeal, unrefined and usually an extremely good chew. The influences, as the name suggests, were initially Indian but the cuisine evolved into an east-west fusion. The restaurant had its devotees and was a cool place to go to feel the love. More
Gough Whitlam’s Labor government was elected after 23 years of Liberal Party rule. In 1973, the government legislated to eliminate the last vestiges of the infamous White Australia policy. Increased Asian immigration saw food choices diversify, in restaurants and in retail outlets. More
The marron (Cherax cainii) is a large fresh water crayfish native to the south western areas of Western Australia and was part of the traditional diet of Indigenous people. Commercial fishing for marron was banned in the 1950s and the recreational fishery has been controlled to ensure the survival of the species. Marron farming began in 1972 at Lancelin, north of Perth and by 2016 the WA industry was producing around 60 tons per year. More
Introduced in the book Dr Atkins Diet Revolution, the Atkins diet promised people they could lose weight while eating as much meat, cheese, cream, eggs and other low-carbohydrate foods as they liked. The Atkins diet was endorsed by celebrities and departed from traditional nutritional advice to reduce fat. It changed the way many people ate, by rejecting even “complex carbohydrate” foods such as bread, pasta and rice. More
The National Library of Australia has this publication dated at 1972, although other sources are less certain of the date. This book, distributed in Australia by the Banana Growers Association, is a collector’s item. It’s best known for the infamous Banana Candle recipe – essentially a banana inserted vertically in a pineapple ring, drizzled with mayonnaise and topped with a slice of cherry (see below). More
The Aussie-owned fast food chain began in Western Australia. Originally a family business, Red Rooster was acquired, and the chain expanded, by Coles Myer. Along with two other chicken brands it is now owned by Hong Kong based company PAG Asia Capital via its investment in the company Craveable Brands. More
Space Food Sticks were developed by Pillsbury in the USA. The company worked in conjunction with NASA to develop a rod-shaped emergency ration that could slide into an airtight port in an astronaut’s helmet. Sensing the commercial possibilities, Pillsbury released the product in America in 1969. Space Food Sticks were first sold in Australia by White Wings and launched here in 1971. More
Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs were launched in 1971. They were based on a similar American product called Cracker Jack, which was first released in the USA in 1896. Like their American predecessor, Bliss Bombs are ready-to-eat popcorn coated with toffee and rolled in crushed peanuts. Bliss Bombs are made by Green’s Foods, although their invention pre-dates the founding of Green’s.
The first Australian McDonald’s opened in the Sydney suburb of Yagoona 16 years after the company was founded in the USA. It was followed by several other Sydney stores and, in 1973, by one in Springvale Road in Melbourne. The original Yagoona store closed in 1994. The Springvale Road building was demolished in 2016, to be replaced by an updated McDonalds.
The first Australian Pizza Hut opened in Belfield, Sydney in April 1970. The building (shown here) was most recently a Korean restaurant with the red roof painted green, but in early 2018 was demolished, to be replaced by a mixed-use development. The brand has grown to have around 380 stores in Australia and New Zealand. Pizza Hut is the world’s largest pizza restaurant company with more than 13,000 restaurants in over 97 countries.
Wynn’s perfected the wine cask (bag-in-a-box) in 1970, with a tap that was exposed by tearing away a panel on the front of the box. The new design offered extra convenience for drinkers and “chateau cardboard” helped to make wine an everyday drink. Orlando’s Coolabah wine cask, launched in 1973, became famous with the advertising campaign “Where do you hide your Coolabah?” More
The earliest emu farm in Australia appears to have been operating in the 1930s at Dromana, Victoria. It was pictured in the West Australian, but I can find no further references to it or what (if anything) it produced. My guess is it was more of a petting farm. After a long hiatus, in 1970 two Swiss families began commercial emu farming in Kalannie, Western Australia and in 1976 a government-backed farm was established in Wiluna, WA. More
In the late ‘60s and early ’70s, the counterculture revolt railed against everything that symbolised the industrial state. It included a new politics of food, involving macrobiotics, Wendell Berry, the Whole Earth Catalogue and dreams of living on communes. Interest in Eastern religions encouraged people to adopt a vegetarian diet and the archetypical foods of the era were brown rice and lentils. More