FROM small beginnings at their home, Eric and Monica Robinson have grown their business to now produce jams, relishes and sauces for nine companies including supermarket giant Woolworths.
This week sees the first orders from the chain with 32 suburban Sydney stores and nine on the Queensland Gold Coast set to have their new Port Macquarie Food/Co Hastings Citrus Marmalade and Strawberry Jam on their shelves by January 28.
Woolworths Settlement City and Lake Cathie and the Glasshouse Shop will also carry the brand.
Mrs Robinson met the chain’s jam buyer at the Specialty Food and Drink Trade Show in Sydney in August last year.
“Woolies was looking for more products and I was there exhibiting The Other Chef and Ruby Lou’s range,” the mother of two said.
The Robinsons are quite protective of The Other Chef as a gourmet range with a higher price point, but suggested the Ruby Lou’s.
“Ruby Lou’s was developed initially as a lower price point range, but the Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam earned a gold medal at the Royal Hobart Fine Food Awards in 2011 and the Spiced Cherry Jam won best sweet preserve at the same show, so it ended up more of a gourmet entry.”
Woolies was also looking for a more regionally inspired brand using local ingredients, so Mrs Robinson pitched the Port Macquarie Food/Co idea. The Other Chef was started by the husband and wife team seven years ago, about a year after they settled in Port Macquarie.
Mrs Robinson, who takes care of the account management, sales and marketing, said everything the pair make goes back into the business.
“It’s grown slowly and we have bought things as we can afford them,” she said.
They don’t have a distributor, doing it all themselves via lots of phone calls, emails and meeting one or two key people at trade shows.
“We have had great support from locals since we started at the Farmers’ Markets and we wouldn’t have gotten to where we are without that.”
Their contract brands are their main business, with chef Eric designing and hand crafting every product.
Ricardoes is their biggest contract but their strawberry jam is a family recipe.
The Port Macquarie Food/Co jam uses Ricardoes strawberries but the recipe for it and the marmalade are different to any of the other ingredient combinations the Robinsons produce.
Last year The Other Chef brand picked up a gold, three silver and two bronze medals at the Royal Hobart and Sydney Royal fine food shows while their contract brands earned another 25 medals - two gold, five silver and 18 bronze.
“The highlight was the Near River Produce Smokey Harissa winning a gold and being awarded Reserve Champion, Savoury Preserves,” Mrs Robinson said.
With more than 50 products now produced, the move to bigger premises in Merrigal Road two and a half years ago was essential.
“We are both now fully employed by the company and have three staff.”
Mrs Robinson said the name Port Macquarie Food/Co says it all: “We wanted it to be not just about us, but about the home town we love and we hope it benefits the whole area.”