Arnott's makes Tim Tam using 'beautiful' Australian strawberries supermarkets rejected

ABC News  - QLD Country Hour - article LINK here 
By Jennifer Nichols

A new Tim Tam biscuit is boosting a Queensland couple's bid to save tens of thousands of tonnes of Australian fruit rejected by supermarkets at the peak of growing seasons.


Stuart and Allison McGruddy launched a war on waste by freezing fruit but were disheartened by major manufacturers using imported, rather than Australian, ingredients.

Now, biscuit maker Arnott's has used 20 tonnes of the fruit the couple saved in their new, limited-edition Sunshine Coast Strawberries and Cream Tim Tam.

When Mr McGruddy, a chef, and wife Allison left London eight years ago and returned to work on his family's farm, they were shocked at the amount of perfectly ripe Australian fruit being rejected just because it didn't meet supermarket specifications.

FoodWise estimates 20 to 40 per cent of fruit and vegetables is rejected even before it reaches the shops for not being up-to-scratch aesthetically.

"Like after the needle incident a couple of years ago, people got to see just how much strawberry waste happens in the industry, and it is the same with bananas and mangoes."

Ms McGruddy added: "We were seeing lots of beautiful raspberries that might be rejected by supermarkets at the time, and Stuart's dad said, 'What can you do with these beautiful berries, Stuart — c'mon, you can do something with them'.

"Not long after that we had the 2015 outbreak of hepatitis A that was caused by contaminated berries produced in China, and we thought we need to do something about this, let's get an Australian offering, so that's basically the premise behind our business."

They founded My Berries, and freeze and bag a growing range of Australian-farmed fruit in a small factory near Bribie Island

Arnott's used a powder made from frozen fruit for their
Strawberries and Cream Tim Tams.
(Supplied: Arnott's)

"Like after the needle incident a couple of years ago, people got to see just how much strawberry waste happens in the industry, and it is the same with bananas and mangoes."

Ms McGruddy added: "We were seeing lots of beautiful raspberries that might be rejected by supermarkets at the time, and Stuart's dad said, 'What can you do with these beautiful berries, Stuart — c'mon, you can do something with them'.

"Not long after that we had the 2015 outbreak of hepatitis A that was caused by contaminated berries produced in China, and we thought we need to do something about this, let's get an Australian offering, so that's basically the premise behind our business."

They founded My Berries, and freeze and bag a growing range of Australian-farmed fruit in a small factory near Bribie Island.

My Berries has capitalised on sweet Queensland-bred strawberry varieties. (ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

Supporting farmers

"I love taking local produce and turning it into a fantastic meal and value adding, and it was just like a match made in heaven when we came back and could see what was growing on our doorstep, especially in the Sunshine Coast growing region," Mr McGruddy said.

The couple has capitalised on sweet Queensland-bred strawberry varieties, including Red Rhapsody and Suncoast Delight.

"We're really proud to work with our family but we are trying to work with as many growers as we can within our region, and now we're working with growers all the way from Far North Queensland with mangoes, all the way down to Tasmania with blackcurrants," Mr McGruddy said.

Mr McGruddy has knocked on thousands of doors, and the My Berries range of frozen fruit and dried fruit powder is now stocked by 750 retailers, with exports to Singapore also underway.

Surplus strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackcurrants and mangoes are being frozen at the peak of the season. (ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

"I've been away from the family, but it's really starting to show off when people see the value in spending that extra dollar on safe, delicious Australian product," he said.

"The fruit that we get is the type of fruit that if you're walking around a farm, and I'm trying to show you what a nice berry is — that's the berry I'm going to show you, but maybe by the time it got to the supermarket shelves it might be a bit overripe, so what's going into our bags is just premium beautiful fruit."

Surplus strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackcurrants and mangoes are all being frozen at the peak of the season.


My Berries now freezes a wide range of Australian fruit at Caboolture, near Bribie Island. (ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

Tough competition

The McGruddys compete with imported frozen fruit, produced with much lower labour costs but also with food safety standards lower than those that must be met in Australia.

"Our frozen element of our business is just over three-and-a-half years old. It means we produce everything by hand, so every calyx is removed from a strawberry, it is washed by hand then dried on racks, then it is frozen, and that all takes labour — and we pay everybody fairly, and that all has a cost to it," Ms McGruddy said.

The couple says "finding every berry a home is really important to us". (ABC News: Jennifer Nichols)

Until now, getting major manufacturers on board has been a struggle.

"When I came back from overseas I tried to find a few manufacturers who might like to take the strawberries that weren't fit for supermarket specifications, and I was really disheartened when I went to big manufacturers and saw shipping container after shipping container of imported product, and we couldn't convince them of the value of supporting local product," Mr McGruddy said.

That is until Brent Duggan, the CEO of Brisbane-based Nutradry, approached the couple with a deal that meant big bikkies to the small family-owned company.

Nutradry took their frozen strawberries and turned them into a powder that Arnott's has used to create the limited edition Sunshine Coast Strawberries and Cream Tim Tams.


It was a sizeable order of 20 tonnes of tasty frozen strawberries.

"That's probably one of our biggest projects for our business and that's a huge dent in what would often in the glut of the season, end up in landfill," Ms McGruddy said.

"It's really exciting because finding every berry a home is really important to us, to our family and to every other grower in this community and it provides local jobs."

My Berries workers celebrate their success outside the factory. (Supplied: My Berries)

An Arnott's spokesperson said the company spent $500 million every year on Australian raw ingredients, packaging and other services.

The Sunshine Coast Strawberries and Cream is one of four new Australian and New Zealand inspired biscuit flavours, including Murray River salted caramel, Gisborne Orange and dark chocolate and Manuka honey and cream.

"In 2020, we'd love to find more manufacturers that are willing to take that step to convert over to Australian," Mr McGruddy said.


The limited-edition biscuits went on sale on Monday but the McGruddys were yet to sample what they tasted like.

"We can't wait — everyone we work with, our staff can't wait — so I think after this interview we're going to dash out and get some," they laughed

Follow us on Twitter

Nominate Now

Queensland Leaders selects leading growth companies to become Members. Up to 25 Executive Leaders and 16 Future Leaders are selected each year.