In the wake of the Hepatitis A scare from imported frozen berries, a family business on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula has come up with a solution to ensure Australians have access to quality, local frozen berries.
Many people are so far believed to have contracted Hepatitis A from eating contaminated frozen mixed berries grown in Chile and China.
To date Australian frozen berries are only available at farm-gate in small quantities – but Matt and Ruth Gallace, behind innovative power-house Rebello which launched Australia’s first 100% real fruit blended cider, are about to change that.
Using berries from Matt’s family farm, Sunny Ridge, which has 800 acres of land in Victoria and Queensland, growing strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and cherries, the pair will launch Matilda’s – initially producing frozen strawberries and aiming at nationwide distribution in supermarkets, and will then move to frozen mixed berries.
Matilda’s co-founder Ruth Gallace says the idea is one they’ve considered for some time, but costs were prohibitive.
“The initial set-up in regards to equipment for production, storage and cost of local pickers weren’t conducive with a viable business, but we feel demand for local produce will change that.”
She says buying local is becoming increasingly important over cost and while their berries will have to be at a higher price point, she’s confident Australian’s will buy locally produced frozen berries, over imported brands.
“We were already seeing a major shift in consumer attitudes towards local produce as people become more and more discerning and this latest situation has propelled that motivation to buy local.”
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has congratulated the Gallace family on their initiative.
“It is good to see Australian businesses looking at ways to expand further and I wish the Matilda’s brand every success with their new berry products.”
While Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) president Peter Tuohey says it’s great to see one of its members giving all Australians access to premium quality, locally grown frozen berries.
“The Gallace’s are doing what all great Australian farmers do – producing the best quality food in the world.”
Sunny Ridge Strawberries has been growing berries on the Mornington Peninsula property since 1964 and practices sustainable farming, using natural insect predators to control pest populations, organic mulches, and strictly adheres to the best food safety systems available.
Featured image: Matt and Ruth Gallace
First published in Leading Agriculture Issue 6