Bio-Grape red wine paste raises Australia's organic - BIO-GRAPE by hjkuiw354



         Martin and Jane Cheney, Australian Harvest Fine Foods.

BIO-GRAPE red wine paste
raises Australia’s organic profile
» A win last year by BIO-GRAPE wine pastes at the world cheese show SHOP was a catalyst to raise
     Australian Harvest Fine Foods’ and Australia’s organic profile in offshore markets.
     Warren Beaumont reports.

     A        ustralian Harvest Fine Foods
             was founded by Martin Cheney
           in March 1993 at which point he
                                                               “The irony is that we have to pay a
                                                           25% tariff to export to Europe plus freight,
                                                           while European products can be sent into
                                                                                                            sensitive hypertension. It is one of four
                                                                                                            major nutraceuticals found in red grape
                                                                                                            seed and skin extract, including resveratrol,
had already gained valuable operational                    Australia tariff-free – there is no level        pterostilbene and saponins.
knowledge of the health foods industry.                    playing field,” he says.                             According to Mr Cheney, a health
    Prior to this Martin had operated Bio                      The experience gained in organic             advantage of the BIO-GRAPE products
Organics vitamin supplements, sold it, and                 farming and the vitamins and health food         is that they have a high ORAC (Oxygen
went on to manage Natures Way vitamins                     business helped him to design a range            Radical Absorption Capacity), with red
in Melbourne. “I built Bio-Organics up                     of products, including the popular BIO-          grape skins and seed extracts having the
into one of the major vitamin supplements                  GRAPE range of gourmet pastes and sauces         best spectrum of polyphenols in them.
companies before selling it to Nature’s                    that would be beneficial for good health.        ORAC is widely recognised as a method
Own,” Mr Cheney says.                                      Another versatile health product developed       of measuring the antioxidant capacities
    In a major lifestyle and vocation change               is a horseradish vinegar with garlic that is     of food. An increased level of high ORAC
Martin later purchased a 50-acre property                  like a herbal tincture for the treatment of      dark colour pigments from red wine grapes
in the Adelaide Hills in Mylor and started                 hay fever and sinus.                             consumed on a regular basis is associated
growing organic herbs. At this time Martin                     “It all comes down to balance - when         with a lower risk of heart disease.
began experimenting with value adding of                   you add herbicides and pesticides, the soil is       “I went to a three-day conference on
products using vinegars, herb jellies and                  not as productive and it interferes with the     polyphenols which attracted international
Roma tomatoes in olive oil.                                soil’s balance - it’s the same with the human    experts who presented on the benefits of
    Martin took the decision to sell the                   body,” Martin says.                              these nutraceuticals,” he says. “Resveratrol
farm and began Australian Harvest Fine                         The company’s BIO-GRAPE products             in red wine grapes is a natural substance
Foods in the Yarra Valley of Victoria. He                  are made from the residual skin and seeds        which works in the skin of the grape to
saw this as an opportunity to replace some                 removed from red wine after crushing.            combat fungus. In organic grape production
of the cheap, imported foods coming into                   Martin understands the benefits offered          grapes have to fight off diseases without
Australia from overseas.                                   by polyphenols, shown to blunt salt-             the assistance of synthetic fungicides and

30   AUSTRALIAN Certified   Organic MAGAZINE Spring 2009
are found on average to contain higher                  “The organic movement in the                   standard could be developed in line with
antioxidant values.                                  United States is phenomenol and we will           the USDA organic certification label,” he
    “We are trying to educate people but             exhibit with Austrade and the Victorian           says. “We’re told we live in a global market
the first thing that attracts people to BIO-         Government at the NRA show in Chicago             and we need to look at getting into line with
GRAPE is the flavour and taste - we receive          during May – the major restaurant show.           USDA organic and achieve equivalency.
great consumer comments about this. It               Bio-Grape should have great potential in              “It is very frustrating that we cannot
is important to explain the environmental            the US as 71 million Americans have some          buy USDA accredited organic sugar in
and health benefits to people, that it’s a           type of cardiovascular disease.”                  Australia and it has to be imported from
byproduct of wine waste and the health                  Overseas trends impacting on product           South America.”
benefits of its antioxidant activity.                development and marketing include ‘buy                Sales growth was very good last year
    “BIO-GRAPE covers organics, health               local’, food miles, the benefits of less CO2      after only two years in business with BIO-
and gourmet markets and while people                 production, and renewable energy. Mr              GRAPE, with a pickup in sales leading
may try it primarily as a gourmet food, it is        Cheney says when BIO-GRAPE is shipped             into Christmas. “We’re getting repeat
recognised for its health benefits and that it’s     overseas it needs to be shown that the            orders from customers and distributors
certified organic. It sells quite well in the gift   product is more sustainable to offset the         and attending a lot of trade and consumer
and hamper market at Christmas time.”                food miles travelled.                             shows. It’s very important to show the
    The BIO-GRAPE Australian Certified                                                                 product and get people to taste it and to
Organic product range includes Red Wine                                                                explain the benefits,” Mr Cheney says.
Jus, Red Wine Chilli Sauce, Chilli Shiraz                                                                  While Mr Cheney sees the Australian
Paste, Shiitake Chilli Paste, Cabernet                                                                 Certified Organic labeling as an advantage in
Pepperberry Paste, Plum & Grape Paste,                                                                 promoting the product, he is also concerned
Blueberry & Grape Paste, Quince & Pinot                                                                with a large amount of non-certified product
Paste, and Fig & Grape Paste, Grape Seed                                                               in the market. Looking at the organic market
Crackers, and Red Wine Chocolates.                                                                     and trends, he believes that organics appeals
                                                                                                       to the more educated and AB demographic
Major expansion in export:                                                                             groups and organic retailers may not always
                                                                                                       target these groups correctly.
UK, Europe and Canadian                                                                                    “Organics also needs to be promoted
distribution                                                                                           through the environmental benefits of organic
A major success for BIO-GRAPE was                    “An advantage of BIO-GRAPE                        farming. Another issue is that there are great
the ‘Best Overseas Product of the Show’               is that it is organic and climate                organic products being made by dedicated
award at the World Cheese Awards held                                                                  people but not enough effort is going into
in Dublin, Ireland in late 2008. The BIO-             friendly and is recycled from                    marketing - and there’s not enough support
GRAPE range of eight certified Organic                                                                 from governments,” Mr Cheney says.
                                                      red wine grape production,
Fruit Pastes and BIO-GRAPE five Cheese                                                                     Increased food costs have so far not
Lovers Gift Packs were sampled with a                 but we also have to show what                    impacted on Australian Harvest Fine
range of cheeses at the ‘SHOP’ show.                                                                   Foods as increased volumes have helped
    The award lifted BIO-GRAPE’s UK                   we’re doing in energy use                        offset price increases. “Prices are affected
profile, and Mr Cheney says he was very               and transport use to show it’s                   by drought or rains and by supply and
excited by the great response to the SHOP                                                              demand,” he says.
Award in Dublin and not long after at The             environmentally friendly.”                           Getting more BIO-GRAPE products into
Wine Show in London. “We were featured                                                                 the retail market in Australia and overseas is a
in the UK Good Cheese magazine with quite                “An advantage of BIO-GRAPE is that            major aim. While more retailers want organic
a story written on BIO-GRAPE,” he says.              it is organic and climate friendly and is         products, it is still a challenge to overcome
    Exporting is shaping as a growing market         recycled from red wine grape production,          resistance to placing organics in some non-
for BIO-GRAPE. “We set up BIO-GRAPE                  but we also have to show what we’re doing         organic stores. Mr Cheney says sales in
Foods UK Limited with a UK warehouse                 in energy use and transport use to show it’s      Australia are being made to quite a broad
and have a marketing consultant working              environmentally friendly,” he says.               market, such as organic stores, some fresh
on our behalf with the UK as a base to                   Mr Cheney points out that this is quite       produce retailers and gourmet delis, and wine
supply Europe,” Mr Cheney says. A major              challenging as UK supermarkets such as            and cheese stores in wine regions, but not to
distribution agreement is close to being             Tesco are now pushing green consumption           traditional supermarkets. “Selling products
signed for Europe.                                   and sourcing low carbon products. “UK             with red grape polyphenols such as BIO-
    BIO-GRAPE has exported to the UK,                supermarkets are showing on food labels           GRAPE also helps red wine sales,” he says.
Dubai, and Hong Kong, prompted by                    how much CO2 is being generated by the                Setting up Australian Harvest Fine Foods
interest in cheese markets for the BIO-              product,” he says.                                and the BIO-GRAPE range has been worth
GRAPE wine pastes. A USA retail chain                    Local ingredients are sourced where           the hard work, made easier for Martin by
has also shown interest in the products.             possible. However, according to Mr                having his wife and two eldest sons working
    A distribution agreement was signed in           Cheney, an issue with Australian organic          in the business. “We really appreciate the
May with a Toronto-based distributor for             certification rules is that Australian            positive emails and feedback received from
Canada with products being launched at All           Harvest Fine Foods cannot often access            people each day in Australia and the UK,
Things Organic in early October in Toronto.          Australian ingredients from small producers;      and the positive responses we’re getting from
“We are looking to get Bio-Grape products            something he believes could be addressed          people after showing the products all around
into Ontario during the peak wine seasons            at a government level.                            the world. Being awarded the SHOP Award
with distribution to be organised into other             “The new Standards Australia national         in Dublin at the world’s biggest cheese show
Canadian provinces,” Mr Cheney says.                 standard could address the issues and the         was fantastic recognition,” he says.

                                                                                                    Spring 2009   AUSTRALIAN Certified   Organic MAGAZINE 31

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