Taking local to the city

By Vanessa Wiltshire

It doesn’t seem all that long ago the average family sat down to a simple meal of meat and three veg. If you were lucky, there was jelly and ice-cream for dessert.

But thanks to the influence of the celebrity chef, reality TV and, of course, social media, our diets have shifted dramatically.

Jump on Instagram and you’ll see that even our breakfast preferences have evolved. From cereal and Vegemite on toast, we now prefer #SmashedAvo with #SauteedMushrooms on sourdough.

Throw in an almond milk latte and you've got the morning made.

While this forces change and adaptation in the food industry, it also opens up opportunity.

According to international advisory firm Bentleys, hyper-locally produce food is one of nine trends to transform Australian agriculture in coming years.

If you look around, you can see it starting. Also known as the ‘locavore diet’, there are more than 270,000 tags on Instagram dedicated to the movement.

Put simply, it means ‘eat and drink local’.

Though ‘local’ is not defined, locavores are a growing community who want to know where food comes from. They give preference to locally produced food, even if it's more expensive.

With thousands of micro and independent producers in regional Victoria it should be relatively easy to serve this segment.

James Carlin, owner of Tooborac Hotel and Brewery, said while there was a high number of producers, reaching the Melbourne/city market was a challenge for most.

“From craft beer to gin, jams, preserves, breads, meats, cheeses and more, our artisan producers are high quality,” James said.

“But they are prevented from getting to the city.

“First, they are limited in terms of how they can scale. Tight budgets prevent growth.

“Marketing is another problem. It should be easy to find them but it’s not.

“Many business owners just don’t have time for social media and digital. Or, they don’t know how to use it.

“And finally, there is the cost of logistics and storage. Freight to Melbourne is expensive.

“Instead of taking action, they wait until they are ‘discovered', either on the tourism trail or at a farmers' market. It's hit and miss.”

After a decade of building the Tooborac Hotel, Brewery and Pie Shop, James and his wife Val have established From the Collective, a platform that helps connect regional independent food and beverage producers with the Melbourne city market.

Having recently secured a four-year lease on a space in Elgin St, Carlton, James and Val will transform it into a provedore and eatery which showcases the products of up to 150 independent food and beverage producers from regional Victoria. Products will be showcased and available online.

James' daughter, Madeleine, who has recently returned from overseas, will play a major role in the business.

As regional product ambassador, Madeleine will oversee the relationship management between From the Collectiveand independent producers.

“Having grown up in Tooborac, it’s great to be home,” Madeleine said.

“I’ll be drawing on my experience in real estate, and of course travel, to help grow the business and help the producers get their brand names out there.”

Madeleine said her goal was to create awareness, especially for the younger generation, on the importance of the ‘shop local’ message.

“I want to educate people on a broader scale, how we can support Victorian farmers and craft producers,” she said.

“We have some of the best produce in the country, it’s time to stand out.”

From the Collective members meet three criteria:

¦Be an independent food or beverage manufacturer, and make it yourself.

¦Be located at least 40km from Melbourne.

¦Be in regional Victoria.

Heathcote region’s Mundy Gully Wines joined From the Collectivein August.

Co-owners Yvette and Sean Winder said they were excited to be part of the network.

“We produce shiraz mainly,” Yvette said.

“We don’t have a cellar door and our size does limit what we can do.

“But this doesn’t mean we’re less serious. Being part of From the Collective will help with marketing and getting our product on the doorstep of the city.

“What we love, is that it’s not just about us. We’re part of a network and I truly believe together is stronger.”

For more information about From the Collective, visit: