Australian Functional Ingredients – by Vic Cherikoff

Native Australian foods? You must be crazy

A lot of people ask how I’ve stuck at developing Australian native foods for the two and a half decades from when I was introduced to the wild food resources of Australia’s Aborigines and recognised that we could not afford to lose this knowledge as Aboriginal culture changed and I knew there was an industry in commercialising these amazing ingredients. Well, with 20:20 hindsight, I must have been crazy.

To create the native food industry meant working with suppliers, collectors, chefs, caterers and small manufacturers and moving into export markets as well. As I created demand for any particular food other entrepreneurs, often those who I trusted and with whom I worked closely grabbed a piece of the market and carved out a niche for themselves in competition. That’s business, I guess and it isn’t in our Australian nature to collaborate too much and it did force me to run that little bit harder to stay out in front.

So I used my science background to develop leading edge processing ingredients for larger manufacturers who needed more than just simple herbs, spices, fruits or juices. This included:

encapsulated essential oils, fruit juices and extracts
sub-critical carbon dioxide flavour extracts
juices, purees and concentrates
special formulations and blends

and on to support documentation of:

specification sheets
certificates of compliance
material safety data sheets
application information and more

The science of turning wild Aboriginal foodstuffs into ingredients for the modern food, beverage, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries has the potential to keep an army busy for several lifetimes. I know it is what keeps me interested and forward-thinking (and way out in front of the industry).

But now, even I think that I must be crazy.

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Vic Cherikoff