Indigenous entrepreneur and Brisbane Broncos prop Ryan James will debut a new health food range tomorrow in collaboration with Gold Coast-based cafe BSKT, packed with native ingredients.
Called BSKT Native, the health food range has been developed to celebrate all things indigenous to Australia, with a percentage of proceeds from sales of the products going to the Ryan James Foundation which is aiming to promote circular economy principles in indigenous communities.
Boasting unconventional native ingredients, the range includes a Davidson’s plum granola, a finger lime and coconut superfood bar, and a chocolate bar which has saltbush mixed in.
“It all tastes great and we thought we could easily sell it to the Australian public and show them how these native ingredients can be added into everyday consumable goods,” the rugby league player said.
“Saltbush is more generally used on fish - to wrap them up and put them on the fire - so we thought it would be pretty cool to try and add it to chocolate.
“And then your finger limes are something that would traditionally be served alongside fish or with oysters, but we managed to put it into a superfood bar with coconut and other ingredients - there’s plenty of native indigenous ingredients with great medicinal values.”
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The entrepreneur, who is now also a co-owner of Mermaid Beach-based cafe BSKT, also hopes to eventually launch a tea following the Native brand launch on Friday, coinciding with the last day of NAIDOC week.
“The first people of Australia have a known history of living in union with their land,” James said.
“Their knowledge of the land has been passed from generation to generation for tens of thousands of years, including indigenous bush foods.
“As a proud Bundjalung man of northern NSW, I'm excited to showcase these Native foods to bring better health to customers in Australia and across the globe, whilst providing a circular economy and opportunities for my people.”
Involvement of indigenous Australians was front of mind for James, who brought on Gold Coast artist and Wiradjuri woman Katrina Graves to design the packaging.
“I've always been encouraged to practise my culture and to teach others about our history and stories,” Graves said.
“For me, art is not only a powerful way to share our stories, it’s a way to educate people through different lenses.
“The opportunity to work with the BSKT team allows for my art to tell a story about the land we live on and my ancestors' connection to food, health, and wellbeing; making this an incredibly rewarding project to be part of.”
As part of the launch, Graves will be hosting an art workshop at BSKT tomorrow to provide a window into the cultural significance of aboriginal art, and an understanding of what NAIDOC Week means to Australia and its indigenous people.
Though he admitted to being “not much of an artist”, James said he was excited about the workshop, which will see attendees paint bowls for BSKT’s corporate gift boxes and learn about the different meanings behind the symbols in Grave’s work.
The launch of James’ brand builds on BSKT’s existing superfood product lineup - BSKT Wholefoods - which was created by the cafe’s founders and Gold Coast Titans team mates Greg Bird and Selasi Berdie.
In addition to being available at BSKT Cafe and the brand’s own website, the Native range will be sold at Go Vita health food stores and distributed nationwide by PFD Foods.
“We want to get it in front of as many faces as we can, and try and push the product as much as we can because we want to show Australia how good our native ingredients are,” James said.
In addition to co-owning BSKT Cafe, spearheading the Native brand and playing for the Broncos, James is currently completing an MBA at Bond University and is running his newly launched Ryan James Foundation.
James told Business News Australia that the Foundation is in the final stages of approval for its Designated Gift Recipient status.
“I didn’t realise when I wanted to start a foundation that if you said you were going to do one thing, you’re only allowed to do that one thing,” James sad.
“We wanted to make sure that we were able to go out to a community and figure out where they needed help, and that circular economy model was big enough that we can actually help communities.”
The first project the Foundation has on its plate is to expand and spruce up the Minjungbal Museum & Cultural Centre, which aims to conserve cultural heritage at Tweed Heads and promote indigenous culture and the native coastal bushland.
“We’re even thinking about getting a little bit of a business hub in there - putting tables, desks, chairs in there so kids have a safe place to go to.”
The launch comes amid NAIDOC Week, which James said was an important time for indigenous people across Australia, letting them reflect on what’s happened in the past, and providing an opportunity to share knowledge.
“That’s the way forward towards reconciliation,” James said.
“People are asking the right questions now and are willing to learn. Society as a whole has come a long way, and we’re extremely proud to be launching this week - it was something that made sense to us.
“To be able to launch the range during NAIDOC week - what better way to do it?”
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