Cafe helps spread the word on local produce
If you're a small Australian food producer trying to get your name out in an overcrowded market, you are faced with a monumental task, especially if there is little available in the marketing budget.
One practical approach that is gaining favour is to work with cafes that not only sell the products on behalf of the producers, but also use them in their menu so customers can taste them in a meal before they buy.
Wild Basket cafe at Neutral Bay on Sydney's north shore is a cafe that does this. "It's a great way to promote products from local producers and also helps us with sales," Wild Basket co-owner Saskia Clark says.
"A customer will often say they really like a particular food, so it's good for them and us when they find out we stock it. We sometimes even write recipes out for customers that want to recreate a meal at home."
Having her products sold in places such as Wild Basket is incredibly important to Claire Parry, managing director and founder of Australian native food company Wattle Tree Creek. Based on NSW's Central Coast, Wattle Tree Creek produces chutneys, pickles, relishes and jams.
"One of the best things about Wild Basket is that they use our products in the food that's on their menu, so people can taste it and see how it can be used before they buy," Parry says.
Another producer, Huw Robb, agrees. As the owner of Long Track Pantry, which produces jams and relishes, he knows the importance of making the most of any marketing opportunity.
His products are also stocked at Wild Basket.
"We're a small company based in Jugiong in southern NSW, and really have no wish to get too much bigger," he says. "We have a cafe and store where we sell our goods, but for additional sales, having our products stocked in cafes and used in menu items is fantastic."
While supporting Australian producers is something the owners of Wild Basket say is important, it's only a small part of their overall business.
The cafe was set up several years ago and one of the aims of the original owners was to support and promote local food producers. When the business came up for sale at the end of last year, Saskia Clark and co-owner Corinne Salem were quick to act.
"I was already working at Wild Basket but met Saskia when we were both working at Deloitte," Ms Salem says. "We always spoke about opening a cafe and when Wild Basket came up we decided to buy it."
Ms Salem has worked in the hospitality industry for a number of years while Ms Clark is an auditor with Deloitte. She has taken six months leave to focus on the cafe.
"We bought the cafe last November and closed for two weeks over Christmas to renovate," Ms Clark says.
"We decided to focus more on the cafe side of the business as we believe this is where most of the success is going to come from."
The quick takeover of the business went smoothly, with both owners agreeing honest and direct communication was key.
Wild Basket stocks products from about 30 producers from all over Australia.
It also sells wines from around 10 Australian winemakers.
"Our original business plan was that we would make 80 per cent of our revenue from the cafe, 15 per cent from the products, and 5 per cent from wine," Ms Clark says. "But we are finding the cafe is bringing in more at the moment."
Ms Salem says they will always sell local products but the mix may change and some lines that don't sell will probably be dropped.