The Brisbane Economic Development Agency's (BEDA) Future Food Global Accelerator program is back for its seventh instalment to support a wide range of local food and beverage companies, following a successful year for the 2023 cohort that has already seen one pre-natal smoothies company go from the R&D phase to a commercial launch in pharmacies with 5,000 registered online customers.
Founded by Meredith Beil to help both expectant and recent mothers as well as toddlers, Optivance has seen strong sales since its involvement with the accelerator with online customers now in every state and territory.
Another alumnus, aeroponic gardening unit provider Airgarden, has since partnered with The Mini Farm Project in Queensland to enable the business to grow more food for people and communities in need, and is also in discussions with distribution partners both locally and in the UK, while it also expects a first order from the EU within the next three months.
Pakko founder Nina Nguyen says last year's accelerator program led to "remarkable growth". In the past six months the company has risen by 40 per cent, an in-house AI customer service representative has been developed, and a staff member has relocated to Italy to ready the ground for international expansion.
"Being a part of the program and hearing from the guest speakers with their inspiring stories, has been transformative," Nguyen says.
"It has broadened our perspectives and strategies for scaling Pakko globally."
Launched in January, the 2024 cohort has been described by BEDA as boasting some of the most exciting innovations to date including seaweed technology to reduce methane-emissions in livestock, food and beverage products taking Indigenous flavours global, and a world-first freeze-dried goat feta.
Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner says the program caters to businesses at the cutting-edge of food and beverage innovation.
“Brisbane’s food and beverage businesses continue to put world-class products on shelves, achieving the success to create jobs and drive our city’s economic growth,” Schrinner says.
“Brisbane’s proximity to international markets, advanced manufacturing and logistical capabilities, and network of national and global brands based locally continues to create incredible opportunities for local food and beverage businesses to grow and thrive.
"Through support programs like the Future Food Global Accelerator, we can make sure our local businesses have the right support to fast-track opportunities for global success."
CSIRO spin-out FutureFeed, which holds the patent for applying the seaweed variety Asparagopsis to ruminant animals to reduce methane emissions, is part of the group, as is Yaala Sparkling which was highlighted in the recently published State of Australian Startup Funding Report 2023 as a prime example of successful First Nations entrepreneurship.
Caterer and gourmet condiments provider FigJam & Co is another 100 per cent Indigenous owned and operated company participating in the accelerator. With demand from high-end restaurants and a range of new products on the horizon, FigJam & Co works closely with First Nations growers, producers and social enterprises to source seasonal ingredients and nutritious superfoods for its gourmet condiments.
FigJam & Co's head of strategy Jacob Davidson says the program will support the company’s ambition to expand domestically in Australia and export globally to markets such as Singapore and Malaysia.
“There is so much passion, creativity and opportunity in Brisbane’s food and beverage market,” Davidson says.
“Working in an emerging market like bushfood, we are currently riding a wave of innovation and believe with the right connections and support we can achieve global success for FigJam & Co and Brisbane.
"BEDA’s Future Food Global Accelerator program will allow us to explore new opportunities to showcase our unique Indigenous flavours and superfoods to the world, while we continue supporting mob in Australia."
The accelerator, which in the past has also included the likes of coffee company Merlo, Kehoe's Kitchen and bakery Priestley's Gourmet Delights, isn't just about lending a hand to local scale-ups but connecting them within the wider food industry. The Australian arm of Brazilian conglomerate JBS Foods has been involved in the past, and this year's cohort includes the Australian subsidiary of UK-based giant Hilton Foods.
Hilton Foods CEO Asia Pacific Mel Chambers says the company is eager to network and learn alongside other participating businesses.
"Brisbane has produced some incredible talent and innovation in the food and beverage manufacturing industry and we’re proud to be a part of that ecosystem," she says.
"We look forward to hearing from leading experts and building connections with other Brisbane-based businesses participating in this program."
Having supported more than 400 businesses since its inception in 2018, this year's accelerator includes an eight-week global readiness program facilitated by industry leading experts and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).
Meet the BEDA Future Food initiative's 2024 cohort:
FigJam & Co
100 per cent Indigenous owned and operated, FigJam & Co integrates native bush food ingredients from First Nations owned and operated properties and social enterprises across Australia into a catering offering for corporate events and manufactured condiments.
Established by CSIRO, FutureFeed has been driving commercialisation of Asparagopsis (seaweed) technology as a livestock feed ingredient to lower ruminant methane emissions. Enteric methane – predominately cow burps – make up 5.5 per cent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.
Gourmet Taste Creations
Gourmet Taste Creations produces artisan condiments, specialising in dry mixes such as dip mixes, spice blends, meat rubs, dukkahs, dressing mixes and soup mixes.
A protein processor and food solutions business, Hilton Foods creates innovative new products and tech in the food sector, working across five categories: meat, seafood, vegan and vegetarian, easier meals, and services. The business has more than 7,000 employees and operates in 13 markets worldwide.
Lilly’s Little Lunchbox
With a mission to be the world’s largest and healthiest tuckshop, Lilly’s Little Lunchbox produces a diverse array of fresh and nutritious pre-made meals specifically designed for children, to support busy parents. The meals are also enjoyed by adults, the elderly, and NDIS recipients.
Little White Goat Cheese
Little White Goat Cheese is a Moreton Bay grazier of goats and producer of goat, buffalo and camel feta and cheeses providing products to many Brisbane restaurants. The business also created a world-first freeze-dried goat feta that has an ambient shelf life of 18 months.
New Farm Confectionery
New Farm Confectionery is a gourmet confectionery company which specialises in handcrafting artisanal sweets. From humble home-kitchen origins, the business now has a flagship store in Newstead and is a wholesale supplier to local and national businesses.
OMG! Decadent Donuts
OMG! Decadent Donuts strives to create delicious hot fresh donuts which can be enjoyed by people with dietary requirements, food intolerances or food allergies. Brisbane made and owned, the business has almost 70 licensees throughout Australia.
Reclaim Foods is redefining how we use organic waste through upcycling surplus food into new, more valuable food products, such as nutrient-rich meals or snack alternatives. This provides an innovative alternative to conventional food waste disposal methods like landfills or feeding animals. Their mission extends to reducing malnutrition and supporting farmers and fostering responsible consumption.
Ugly Duck Fine Foods
Ugly Duck Fine Foods sources ugly, imperfect fruit and vegetables and transforms them into delicious condiments, such as fruit spreads, chutneys, relishes and fruit pastes. The business aims to fight against wasted fresh produce, noting that half of all fruit and vegetables produced are wasted globally.
Yaala Sparkling is a female-led, Indigenous-owned beverage company with a native twist. The business produces beverages which incorporate flavours from Indigenous and native Australian plants. ‘Yaala’, which translates to ‘the present moment’ in Wiradjuri language, is all about pairing the perfect beverage with life’s most joyous moments.
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