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Food and beverage stories

Branding tales enthral big audience

Edition 163 Ray Martin and John Hammond ... intriguing interviews

Expatriate media celebrity Ray Martin, AO, and local producers John Hammond and Mark Littler joined forces to deliver the Brand Tasmania message to an impressive business audience in Launceston Town Hall in July.

Mr Martin volunteered his time to fly from Sydney to interview Mr Hammond of Robbins Island Wagyu Beef and Mr Littler of Hellyers Road Distillery as the highlight of a Brand Tasmania networking event.

Mr Martin also interviewed Rémi Cousin, a sommelier at Fat Duck restaurant in Melbourne, who had just completed a familiarisation visit to Tasmania.

Mr Cousin said he had found Tasmania to be “a paradise" that he felt was often under-valued.

He loved the wine, the food and the people.

The Chairman of the Brand Tasmania Council, Michael Grainger, set the scene for the interviews telling the 130 attendees that the evening would have a double theme.

“The first part is: 'What can Brand Tasmania do for my business?'" Mr Grainger said.

“The second part, that we would like you to think of as equally important, is: 'What can my business contribute to Brand Tasmania?'”

Launceston’s Lord Mayor, Albert van Zetten, provided the venue and hosted the evening’s proceedings.

Alderman van Zetten outlined his city’s considerable contributions to the building of Tasmania’s brand.

Brand Tasmania Senior Manager, Martin Turmine, told The Examiner the event was about sharing “good news" Tasmanian stories with the Launceston business community.

“What we have on show here tonight is the opportunity for Tasmanian businesses and Tasmanian business people to share their ideas of what they are doing well with their products and services,” he said.

“We have a range of people mostly from the north and north-west of the State … all people who are interested in the Tasmanian brand and interested in what Tasmania does well.”

Mr Hammond told Ray Martin he had been involved with Brand Tasmania for a number of years and had benefited by linking his businesses to the Tasmanian brand.

Brand Tasmania had supported his company’s marketing and had introduced him to celebrity chef Tetsuya Wakuda, an invaluable business ally.

“Tasmania has a great food culture that has come a long way in the past 10 or 20 years,” Mr Hammond said.

“It’s world class, and the bar is just going to keep going up,” he said.

“It’s a great mix. People want to come and see the great views, but they also want to eat the best food.”

Mr Hammond consistently describes his business as being “a big fan" of the Brand Tasmania program.

“Our business has certainly had a big leg up through the publicity and contacts that have come about because of the work they do,” he said recently.

“It’s great to see the Tasmanian Government is continuing to support Brand Tasmania with funding – from our experience we are seeing tangible results.”

Mark Littler outlined the 10-year journey Hellyers Road’s parent Betta Milk had taken in diversifying to a completely new line of business.

He said persistence and an unconditional commitment to quality had been needed before his team could be satisfied they had a world-class product that they could take to the market with absolute pride.

Mr Littler said the Brand Tasmania concept had been vital in the development of Hellyers Road’s international marketing.

Consumers in Europe and Asia loved the connection with a remote island boasting impeccable natural resources and innovative people.

Meanwhile, Tasmanian whisky producers have united to lobby for place-of-origin legislation that would strengthen their Tasmanian brand and protect them against imitations.

With four distilleries and a blender/bottler earning Liquid Gold ratings and industry pioneer Bill Lark inducted into the Whisky Hall of Fame, the industry is booming.

The key distillers are struggling to keep up with demand.

It’s expected that there will be 20 Tasmanian whisky producers by the end of 2015 – the number having doubled in 24 months.

The Tasmanian Whisky Producers Association now wants Parliament-approved appellation to define exactly what ingredients must go into a whisky before it can carry Tasmanian branding.

The association’s Secretary, Troy Trewin of Lark Distillery, told the ABC that every existing distiller supported the plan to protect a valuable, over-arching brand that is recognised in all major whisky markets.

“We want to lock in an appellation which defines Tasmanian whisky,” Mr Trewin said.

Sullivan’s Cove’s Patrick Maguire, who produced a single-malt acknowledged as the world’s best in 2014, said the State’s distillers were vulnerable.

“There may be opportunities for other people to try to cash in on our brand, producing whiskies that aren't necessarily made here or not using our grains and our water,” he said.

Blender and bottler, Rex Burdon of Tasmanian Heartwood Whisky, said: “We want to make sure that if it’s … going to be called a Tasmanian product, it comes from Tasmania with all the produce that’s used in it coming from the island.

“It’s absolutely vital if we want to protect the Tasmanian label, the Tasmanian brand.”

The proposed legislation would be similar to a Bill passed in 1986 to support Tasmania’s wine industry. That legislation was based on long-standing French laws used to protect producers in such notable provinces as Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux from fraudsters.

Mr Maguire said appellation would also protect whisky consumers.

“I think what it means to the consumers is that they know when they buy a bottle of Tasmanian single malt whisky that they’re getting the genuine article,” he said.

Mr Trewin said initial discussion with the State Government had been positive.

“They are very keen to have further discussions to see how they can support the industry and help it even further,” he said.

The distillers are eager to see legislation drafted and tabled in State Parliament as quickly as possible.

For more on Ray Martin’s visit: Ray Martin loyal Tasmanian to the core

5 August 2015, Edition 163

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