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Issue 17

Coles Venture into Native Foods

Coles Taste Australia and the Coles Indigenous Food Fund

Pepperberry vinegar, Kakadu plum jelly and ironbark honey are just a few of the products which will soon be on supermarkert shelves under this scheme to pro­mote native foods. Coles' idea to raise Australians awareness of native foods began on a visit to Arnhemland last year by Manag­in,,, Director Alan Williams.

Alan was at Galiwinku (Elcho Island) to sign a retail training agreement with the Arnhemland Progress Association (ALPA) which involves Coles sharing retail and training resources and staff exchanges between remote grocery stores in Arnhem Land and Coles stores.

The idea gathered impetus when Alan outlined his thoughts to the Aboriginal Development Forum chaired by Galarrwuy Yunupingu and ACT Chief Minister Denis Burke.

Coles made a commitment to this Forum to encourage its suppliers to establish links with Aboriginal communities who supply native ingredients and to help distribute and promote awareness of Australian native produce. The Forum's objective underpinning this is to provide Aboriginal people with the opportunity to develop their own communities commercially and socially.

These links are being established and today's Coles Taste Australia launch of products nationally should help create greater awareness of the unique and magnificent flavours of Australia's indigenous foods.

Former Australian of the Year, Mandawuy Yunupingu, representing the Yothu Yindi Foundation of north-east Arnhem Land, has given his support to an

initiative that involves indigenous communities in central Australia, Victoria, the top end, central Queensland and the Cape and Gulf country.

"We welcome initiatives utilis­ing traditional knowledge that promote sustainable businesses for Aboriginal people and their communities," he said.

"For tens of thousands of years Aboriginal people have relied on the fruits of this land for their di­etary and medicinal properties. "We welcome processes that fur­ther the economic development of Aboriginal communities. We also appreciate the fact that a proportion of sales will go to the Fund to be devoted to the development of indigenous food production in the communities.

"It's exciting that our fellow Australians can now share in the tastes we've enjoyed for millennia."

Discussions with growers, manufacturers and the CSIRO all pointed to sustainable commercial harvesting and cultivation if manufacturers were to secure long term supply.

To ensure Aboriginal groups would have a share in this, Coles suggested diverting a portion of sale proceeds to a fund to be used by Aboriginal communities to improve harvesting and cultivation practices.

Coles and three of its suppliers;

Robins Australian Foods, Australian Native Produce Industries and Taylor's Foods, agreed to contribute a portion of their product profit margins towards this fund, known as the Coles Indigenous Food Fund. Coles will contribute 25 cents per product and the manufacturers will contribute varying amounts.

In the first year it is expected to raise in excess of $100,000. Coles is establishing the fund with an initial $20,000 donation.

Once established, Aboriginal communities seeking to improve their supply arrangements with Coles' suppliers will be able to make applications to an advisory committee for grants. The advisory committee will consist of representatives from Coles, suppliers and Aboriginal groups.

"To encourage continuing Aboriginal involvement in harvesting and cultivation, the Fund will de grants enabling plant provide species research, horticultural training and irrigation to enable expansion.

"Coles is committed to the Indig­enous Food Fund for the long­term and we believe our customers will be very impressed by the quality, flavours and textures of these uniquely Australian products."

The Coles Taste Australia range is available in over 100 Coles' stores across Australia. Products include relishes, chutneys, jams, simmer sauces, chilli and other flavoured sauces and dried native herbs.