First AU frozen berries to begin production

A Mornington Peninsula couple has today launched Australia’s first commercial frozen berry brand. The move comes in the wake of the health scare from imported frozen berries from China, which were linked to 27 cases of hepatitis A in Australia.

Wine and cider producers, and third-generation berry growers, Matt and Ruth Gallace have founded Matilda’s Frozen Fruit. It will initially produce frozen strawberries, with plans to expand into frozen mixed berries.

The berries will be grown by Matt’s father, Mick Gallace, who owns Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm at Main Ridge on the Mornington Peninsula, as well as 324ha of strawberry farms in Queensland and at other Victorian sites. Matt and Ruth will process and market the new brand.

Until now, Australian frozen berries have been available only at farmgates in small quantities, but the Gallaces — who produce Rebello fruit wine and cider — are about to change that.

Ms Gallace said the family had been developing the business idea for some time, but decided to kick the project into immediate action with demand for Australian product heightened after Patties Foods — which produces Nanna's and Creative Gourmet frozen berries — was linked to the hepatitis A scare.

“We believe the current situation has created a demand for an Australian alternative and to have a product that they can trust,” she said. “Our product is very simple — fresh Australian strawberries that have been picked and frozen. There’s no trickery to it.”

The Gallaces are in the process of locking in deals with the major supermarkets and sourcing specialised freezing equipment, similar to that used for freezing peas.
She said the product would be sold in 500g pouches, and would cost “a couple of dollars” more than the same volume of imported product.

“It will be at a premium, but we believe there’s a demand for it,” she said. “If people are prepared to pay that, then we’ll have a sustainable industry.”


Publication date: 3/17/2015

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