Energy drinks arrived in Australia in the late ’90s. ‘V’ was first launched in New Zealand in 1997 and hit the market in Australia in 1999. Red Bull was invented in Austria and first marketed there in 1987. It was also launched in Australia in 1999. By 2014 Red Bull claimed annual sales of around 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. More
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 included Vegemite taste-alike OzEmite, jams, peanut butter and cream cheese spread. Products were promoted as being “as Australian as they can be”, as some ingredients were, of necessity, imported. More
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 for a limited time in 2011. In New Zealand, it’s called a Kiwiburger and includes an egg. More
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. The biggest consumers of soft drink were adolescent males, who drank an average of one litre per day. More
In 1968 the American Heart Association announced a dietary recommendation that you should eat no more than 300 mg of dietary cholesterol per day and no more than three whole eggs a week. It took a while to bite in Australia, but consumption of eggs fell dramatically between 1979 and 1985. By the end of the 1990s, Australians’ egg consumption had declined to 137 eggs per capita per year (as compared to around 255 in the late ‘40s). We were also eating less red meat, sugar and fats and more chicken, fish and vegetables. More
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. More
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. More
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 is now sponsored by Citibank and has spread to other Australian capital cities. More
Aimed primarily at bringing international food and travel media to Australia, Tasting Australia was initially held in conjunction with the Food Media Awards and the Food Writers’Festival. The event has been running approximately every two years since 1997 and involves a public food festival, talks, classes, and dinners. It became an annual event from 2016. More
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, Daisy Boo, Petal Blossom Rainbow, and Buddy Bear Maurice? More
In a study called How Australians Use their Time, 1997, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that we still relied on women cooking, with 80% of women spending time preparing food, compared to 49% of men. The same study showed men spent 7% of their time on domestic work compared to 13% for women. More
The Arnott’s ownership passed to the American Campbell’s Soup Company 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. See History of Arnott’s Ltd. More
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 more than half a million copies. A revised edition was published in 2004, containing 300 new recipes and 12 new chapters. It was further revised in 2014. More
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’. It took a while for the Australian Women’s Weekly to catch up. It published its Modern Australian Food cookbook in 2012. More
Barokes Wines was founded by Steve Barics and Greg Stokes, reputedly after narrowly avoiding an experience involving a shattered wine glass and a spa. They saw wine in a can as a solution to all those situations where glasses and bottles were either forbidden or ill-advised. Buying bulk wines from other vintners in south-eastern Australia, they began packaging wine in aluminium cans. In 2002 they patented the Vinsafe process, using cans with a plastic lining that could preserve the wine for up to a year.
The Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network was set up in 1996. The Network was started by Dr Darren Phillips as an informal, Australia-wide network of people interested in community gardens, city farms, urban agriculture and community education centres. The network was originally an informal volunteer organisation with no office holders but is now an incorporated association with a formally elected committee and state representatives. More
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. More
The US coffee chain Gloria Jean’s opened two stores in Sydney in 1996 and by 2003 was trading in every state in Australia. It was subsequently bought by Retail Food Group and has made a success of its franchised operation. As of 2020 there were more than 300 Gloria Jeans outlets in Australia. Many are located in shopping malls, picking up the day-time shoppers. More
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 supermarket fuel dockets with any purchase over $30. The same year, Woolwiths forged an alliance with Caltex, also offering cheaper fuel via shopper dockets.
Fags were candy cigarettes, produced since the 1930s, initially by Riviera Confectionery and later by Fyna Foods. They were white, musk-flavoured lollies with a pink tip, sold in a pack that resembled a cigarette pack. As anti-smoking campaigns ramped up around Australia there was increasing pressure to remove their association with a life-threatening habit. Victoria was among the last states to abandon the name Fags. More
Sushi had appeared in Sydney restaurants as early as 1963 and by 1982 the Australian Women’s Weekly was telling people how to make it at home. But take-away sushi saw the Japanese favourite go mainstream. Melbourne’s first take-away sushi rolls appeared in 1995, while the Sushi World chain began in Chatswood, Sydney, in 1996. More
British immigrant Elizabeth Taylor opened Sydney’s first organic food market at French’s Forest in Sydney, concentrating on locally grown food. Her experience in running markets in the UK led her to found several markets around Sydney. I have received a note from Kevin Eade of NSW Farmers Market Pty Ltd making the point that the French’s Forest market, and Elizabeth Taylor’s subsequent markets are not, in fact, farmers’ markets, as the stall-holders are primarily on-sellers, not the farmers themselves.
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. More
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. More
The first laneway bar in Melbourne was set up by a group of architects who wanted a quiet drinking spot convenient to their practice. Meyers Place was tiny and didn’t serve food. It was made possible by Victoria’s new small bar licence, introduced by Premier Jeff Kennett’s Liberal government to allow Crown Casino to open a strip of bars along the riverbank. Laneway bars became a notable feature of Melbourne’s nightlife and helped to reinvigorate the city centre. More
Fly Buys was originally 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. More
The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs must authorise the use of the term Anzac. In 1994 a general policy relating to biscuit products was adopted. It meant that Anzac biscuits could not be so-called unless they were made to the traditional recipe. And never, ever call them cookies. More
The FlavrSavr tomato became the first genetically engineered food to be commercially grown and licensed for human consumption by the US Food and Drug Administration. The product was mostly marketed in California, but was not profitable and was eventually withdrawn. The company that developed the FlavrSavr, Calgene, was bought by Monsanto. More
Chef Peter Doyle, realising that the old-style formality was out-of-step with the times, transformed Sydney institution Le Trianon into Cicada. It marked a move from traditional French-influenced cooking to a modern Australian style. Dishes included: roasted beetroot, blood orange, red witlof and asparagus; and slow-cooked beef cheeks with celeriac and field mushrooms. More
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. More
According to its author, Jill Dupleix, New Food was based 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. More
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 McCafé rated better than other popular coffee chains. It certainly helps when you’re heading up the highway. More
In the early 1990s, Australia paid a high price for the excesses of the 1980s with what Paul Keating famously called “the recession we had to have”. As economic hard times hit the fine dining scene, several iconic restaurants closed, including Fanny’s in Melbourne’s Lonsdale Street. The restaurant had been opened in 1960 by Gloria and Blyth Staley but the self-consciously upmarket positioning worked against Fanny’s in the new economic climate. More
The kitchen staff from Berowra Waters Inn restaurant, under the leadership of Gay Bilson, made a tablecloth of raw tripe for the seventh Symposium of Gastronomy, which took place at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. The menu for the dinner read: Stomach, Egg, Flesh, Bone, Skin, Blood, Heart, Milk, Fruit, Virgins’ Breasts, Dead Mens’ Bones. 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. More
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. In the late ’90s margarine sales began to decline. In 2015 Roy Morgan research showed that butter was making a comeback, with more people buying butter than margarine. More
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.
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. More
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 with royalties from Easter Bilby sales 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. More
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. More
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. More
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. By 1992, as a result of take-overs and consolidations among the big corporates, 60% of Australia’s food market was shared by only 20 food manufacturing companies. More
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. Under the system, Australian states and territories administer their own food acts, which are based on a national model and incorporate national food standards automatically as laws in their jurisdictions.
David Thompson opened Darley Street Thai in Sydney’s Newtown in 1991, taking Thai food in Australia to a new level. He was the first to offer Thai royal cuisine – a far cry from the Thai food we had experienced until then. The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide named Darley Street Thai as Best Thai Restaurant every year for the eight years it was open. Thompson went on to open Thai restaurants in Bangkok and London, and returned in to found his Long Chim restaurants in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, as well as Seoul and Singapore.
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, loud music, 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. More
In 1990, Treasurer Paul Keating admitted that Australia was in recession. “The first thing to say is, the accounts do show that Australia is in a recession. The most important thing about that is that this is a recession that Australia had to have,” he said in November 1990. The remark that this was the recession we had to have became as famous as Keating’s previous prediction that Australia would become a “banana republic”. More
Franklins was the first of the big grocery chains to use barcode scanners at all checkouts.
The Australian Dairy Corporation (now Dairy Australia) began its osteoporosis campaign, talking about calcium intake. Although milk had always been touted as giving you strong bones and teeth, 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. More
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. More
In the 1990s, individually packaged, ready-made meals and snacks appeared 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. More
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. The authentic recipe has no bacon and no anchovies. More
Fusion cooking started before the 1990s (at Tetsuya’s, for example) but in this decade became more widespread. Chefs combined eastern and western influences. Chefs like Adelaide’s Cheong Liew combined cuisines with a deft touch but lesser mortals often produced “confusion cuisine”. Fusion cuisine worked best in countries like Australia, Canada, the US and New Zealand with their fresh produce, fewer historical food traditions and foodies with adventurous palates. More