Condiments are the literal spice of life. We meet three Adelaide entrepreneurs who are making the production of side dishes and sauces into their main game.
Small Business Survey: condiments
Minka Park is 47-years-old. She would like you to know that because she attributes her indisputably youthful appearance to just one thing – kimchi consumption.
Minka didn’t always appreciate the wonders of fermented and seasoned cabbage, but when her newborn baby started suffering eczema – and the doctor’s prescribed lotions and ointments did nothing – she started researching how to help her child.
“I did big research and all the skin irritations come from your gut health,” Minka tells us. “The gut microbiome,” she continues, “I never knew that it was so connected to our health and skin.”
Fermented foods like yoghurt and sauerkraut are good for the gut, but kimchi is specific in its promotion of healthy skin. But, Minka couldn’t feed the store-bought, spicy variety to her baby – so she made her own kid-friendly, non-spicy version.
After curing her little girl of her eczema symptoms, Minka kept up the routine of regularly making kimchi for her family. She also started sharing her newfound appreciation for the condiment she grew up eating morning, noon, and night in Korea with her Australian friends and colleagues.
Pretty soon, Minka had created a market for her kimchi and all that was missing was a name.
“Kimchi Club – I like the name because I want this product to be more than something people consume, I want it to be something that we share, that we take part in,” says Minka.
Scaling the business is proving a challenge. Minka regularly fields sales inquiries from interstate, but her product needs refrigerated distribution and her margins are not at the point yet where she can afford to give a chunk of her bottom line to a distributor.
“As a startup business it’s not easy to afford that percentage,” says Minka. “From top to bottom – I do everything myself.”
But less than a year into this venture and only eight months running Kimchi Club fulltime, growing pains are a sure sign of success.
Native Australian foods are gaining more relevance and prevalence in commercial kitchens, but Warndu helps bring this country’s natural flavour into the home.
Founders Rebecca Sullivan and Damien Coulthard produce teas, broths, spices, oils, and vinegars using native produce, and their business is growing both here and internationally.
Damien has an art exhibition in London in September and there will be a Warndu pop-up restaurant as part of that. “We have had an amazing amount of success with Warndu, considering we all have full-time jobs,” says Rebecca.
The pair are now also planning a 90-acre native eco forest in the Clare Valley – which will be complete with accommodation, a native cellar door, and cookery school.
Adelaide’s rapidly developing local food and drink culture has some unintended yet delightful consequences, and one of those is that Steve Dearden’s hobby of making chilli sauce has established itself as a real business over the past four years.
With a bumper chilli season in 2017, Steve bottled enough sauce to satisfy the SA market throughout this year, and is taking this layover in production as a chance to audit the business and its processes. “There’s surprisingly few devices available for processing fresh chilli,” says Steve. “De-stemming fresh chilli is done (with gloves) one chilli at a time.”
Despite its manual nature, the business continues to evolve, with a new spice rub – MARC by MOTA – now available, and a wine/chilli collaboration on the horizon.