Beerenberg Preserves Centuries of Family Farming
A photograph of the first strawberry ever picked on the Beerenberg family farm adorns the label on the jar of jam released to celebrate 50 years of growing strawberries in South Australia’s Adelaide Hills.
Based for six generations in the tourist drawcard of Hahndorf – where the family ventured from Germany 200 years ago to produce crops on their own land – the inaugural Beerenberg shop was built as a packing shed for the strawberries first grown by Grant Paech in 1970.
“Dad inherited what was then a dairy farm and started growing strawberries and selling them at the markets. One day, he had too many strawberries and made some jam,” Beerenberg Director Sally Paech told The Cultivator.
“While Dad was building the packing shed, somebody pulled up and said, ‘Can I buy some of your strawberries?’, and he said, ‘Well I guess so’.
“So he thought I should make this packing shed into a shop and he built a door that swung open, so people could access it from the front.
“And that’s how it started.”
From the first jar of strawberry jam, the Beerenberg range has grown to more than 100 condiments made in Australia and distributed across the globe.
With about 90 staff in South Australia, they recently welcomed the state’s Governor Hieu Van Le for a tour of Beerenberg’s newly commissioned factory.
“Our shop staff alone have doubled in the past five years – we’re just so much busier,” said Ms Paech, who together with Managing Director Anthony Paech and Farm Manager Robert Paech, driven the company’s growth.
“Actually, a lot of people still only know us for jam but our condiments are the best performers – we’re a market leader in Woolworths nationally in condiments.
“Strawberry jam is still our number one SKU (stock keeping unit) in terms of sales but caramelised onion and the products that go with it – like tomato chutney and balsamic beetroot relish – are very popular.”
Found nationally throughout major and independent supermarkets, specialty grocers, butchers and gourmet food stores, Beerenberg products are also exported to Asia for mostly food service industries and hotels in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia, along with some boutique retail on the United States west coast.
“We’ve had a lot of our overseas customers and distributors for a long time,” said Ms Paech.
“With our loyal customers and hotel chains, everything has built up around those relationships over the years, and that’s grown steadily.
“What we’re trying to do now here in Australia is grow domestically.”
Ms Paech said Beerenberg aimed to expand the major supermarket range by offering products for new categories, such as 30-minute meal bases and slow cooker sauces as a premium alternative to the “quick $1 meal pouches”.
“We’re trying to bring premium into that category for older families, such as parents with teenagers trying to create a wholesome meal with lots of veggies really quick, and tasting brilliant – it’s a bit more than your sausage hot-pot stuff on offer in that range now,” said Ms Paech.
With Beerenberg’s focus on premium products, Ms Paech said it was important for ingredients to be grown and made in Australia.
“We’d like to think everybody would want to buy Australian family-owned products,” she said.
Beerenberg’s commitment to home-grown and made quality spans from the strawberry patch, which is open to the public for pick-your-own punnets, to the online Provenance Pathway Tracker barcode tool for consumers to trace the origin of the main ingredients in every product.
“Handwritten on each batch label on the jams is the date it was made, the main ingredient, and even who cooked it,” Ms Paech said.
“And because we don’t grow raspberries or blueberries on our farm, we’ve got some really good long-term relationships with Australian growers.”
With the canegrowers of NSW, Manildra Group has for two decades been the preferred supplier of the Australian-grown and made sugar-based products that go into Beerenberg’s fruit preserves and condiments.
“For a fundamental ingredient, the consistency of quality is super-important and having a long-term relationship with an Australian supplier such as Manildra Group is essential,” said Ms Paech.
As both 100 per cent Australian family-owned businesses, Manildra Group and Beerenberg also share a commitment to supporting the local industries and communities in which they operate, through charitable foundations.
As both 100 per cent Australian family-owned businesses, Manildra Group and Beerenberg also share a commitment to supporting the local industries and communities in which they operate, through charitable foundations. “It’s great to work with a passionate partner like Beerenberg who shares our values and commitment supporting Australian-grown and made products,” said Manildra Group Head of Sales Murray Newman.
“Watching Beerenberg’s growth into internationally acclaimed sauces, jams and condiments, Manildra Group is so proud to contribute our own 100 per cent Australian sugar-based premium products to this Australian family-owned business success story.”