Every year the South Australian food industry honours the leaders and high achievers among the local food producers with the SA Premier’s Food Awards. The finalists are nominated some months before-hand and the winners are announced at a gala presentation dinner. The 2010 event was held last Friday evening. This year, after four previous nominations for the same award, Sam Tucker of “Tuckers Natural” finally took his place on the podium and was recognised for his hard work, skills and brilliant products when he accepted the award for the Innovate SA Visionary Leader (Young).
While it has the benefit of over 30 years of combined Tucker family food industry experience behind it, “Tuckers Natural” is a relatively young company which markets a range of completely natural gourmet crackers – both here in Australia and internationally in 12 other countries. The growth of “Tuckers Natural” has been nothing short of astonishing and is a testament to the energy, vision and drive of Sam. In just over three years this Adelaide based business has grown from modest beginnings to holding shelf space in the major supermarkets and an enviable market share of the gourmet snack export business.
Sam Tucker trained as a chef at the Le Cordon Bleu school at Regency Park in Adelaide and worked in hospitality for a time before deciding that there was little scope for promotion in the field here in South Australia. He worked with his family in a bakery business in Mt. Barker before branching out on his own with the “Great Australian Gingerbread Company” in 1998. In August 2007 he launched the “Tuckers Natural” brand in response to the growing trend for more authentic food products and the demand he saw for natural, gourmet, snack foods. In September of the same year he took his product to the “Fine Foods” show in Sydney, Australia’s largest international food and hospitality event, where it immediately attracted the attention of the buyers from Coles and Woolworths as well as those from all over the world.
Tuckers, who now employ a workforce of 25 staff, are proud to boast that their line of gourmet crackers are 100% natural, free of both yeast and preservatives and are completely GMO free. From the beginning, Sam has been dedicated to using local products for almost every step of production. The fresh herbs and vegetables that are used for the flavouring – which is incorporated into the dough, not just sprinkled on top – are sourced from local Adelaide producers and he uses only Laucke flour as they, too, have strongly resisted any GMO content. The dough is mixed with rice bran oil which cannot be sourced locally, but is only purchased from Australian owned, GMO free companies.
The gourmet cracker range now includes six different flavours in the savoury range, four sweet flavours in the dessert range and three flavours in the new Multifibre snack range. Sam tells me that his new snack range is so healthy “it is practically ridiculous” and was developed in response to his concern for the amount of flavoured rice crackers – with their empty calories – that his kids were getting through!
Chatting with Sam, it was easy for me to see why his business is a success. Sam’s life is obviously busy – he has 3 children under 3 and his wife runs a fashion accessory business of her own – but he is not afraid of hard work and brings to his enterprise a solid and well informed understanding of both the food industry and his consumers. When discussing his various products, he is able to identify which flavours are more popular with each gender and age bracket – the sort of knowledge really only comes from talking to your customers and hearing what they want.
While he is gratified by the industry recognition he has received, by virtue of his award, he is concerned about the future of food production businesses in South Australia. Sam sees it as imperative that local businesses support each other by using local producers and collaborating together – particularly in light of the current economic climate as the state government removes the funding and dismantles the supports that have helped SA companies become competitive and take their place on the national and world stage.
“Tuckers Natural” range of gourmet savoury and dessert crackers and the new Multifibre snack range are available in Coles, Woolworths, IGA stores and other leading independent stores – and in 12 countries including the US, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore and others.