Last week I was invited to the launch of a new project from the folks at the home of strawberry jam – Beerenberg – here in the Adelaide Hills. In keeping with their very strong commitment to the local community, Beerenberg have collaborated with some of the talented chefs who can be found lurking in the hills and released a series of smart-looking recipe cards featuring recipes from those chefs using Beerenberg products. While I stood around munching on some of the delectable samples of the recipes and fondly recalling past strawberry picking days in the surrounding fields, it occurred to me that it was high time I shone a little light on a name that we might sometimes take for granted here in South Australia.
Strawberry picking at Beerenberg has been a popular Adelaide family outing for over 30 years now, but how many of us realise what an asset this family enterprise has become – both locally, in the Adelaide Hills and generally to South Australia. From the modest beginnings of some experimental strawberry growing on the family dairy farm by Grant Paech in 1971, Beerenberg has developed into a simply massive success story with a range of around 60 products which can be found not only all around South Australia, but in 24 countries, on international airlines and in more than 300 hotels. Most South Australians would be familiar with the Beerenberg label – we see it in our homes, our store shelves and often when we travel, but perhaps you might not be so familiar with their longstanding commitment to their community and the sustainability of their products and local food.
Unlike many other businesses who begin to grow and decide to move their production facilities, Beerenberg remains where it began, on the same farm which has been in the family for five generations in the small hills township of Hahndorf and all of their products are still made there. They value their reputation as producers of a quality product and use traditional recipes with no added artificial flavours, colours or preservatives to create their ever-growing line of goods. Very nice, I hear you say, but so do many other manufacturers so what makes this crowd any different? Well folks – I’d like to point out to you Beerenbergs “Provenance Pathway“.
An initiative of Sally Paech and using Google Maps, the Provenance Pathway enables the consumer to trace the origin of each jars main ingredients, the method of preparation, even the name of the person who made it. Each entry also lists the product specifications, the date of manufacture and a full list of the ingredients. Really, it gives you everything but the actual recipe and I can’t think of anything else you’d need to know about a product. However, if there is anything else you think you might like to know about what you are about to put in your mouth, their excellent website also includes a section on allergens, their policy on the same, a comprehensive allergen chart and links to some other useful websites. Honestly, I can’t think of another food company website that is as comprehensive as this one.
While I mooched about their showroom nibbling on polenta and green tomato chutney muffins and fig and cinnamon jam tarts, I had the chance to take in some of their enormous range of sauces, dressings, chutneys and mustards, but it is still strawberries which really drive this place. The 5.5 hectare strawberry patch all around the shop is dormant at this time of the year, but when it opens again it will be host to over 28,000 visitors – many of them international tourists – who will pick around five tonnes of fruit and will also provide the fruit for the 250,000 jars of strawberry jam that will make their way onto the market all around Australia. The jam will be made in Hahndorf by some of the 45 (largely local) employees – perhaps even the one who has worked there for over 39 years – and some of the profits from that strawberry patch will be funnelled into the Beerenberg Foundation, set up by the Paech family to help conserve the local Hahndorf historical heritage.
Now that is local commitment.