Meet the Producer: Random Harvest

10 January 2024, 10:02 AM
  • Exceptional Australian brand, Random Harvest, is now available to the UK’s fine food retailers thanks to a distribution partnership with Cotswold Fayre
Meet the Producer: Random Harvest

For a long time, the closest we’ve come to experiencing Australian culture at our tables in Britain has been via our nearly 200-year-old relationship with the country’s wine growing regions.

Retailers, and consumers, will be well versed in the award-winning bottles that land on our shores from the Barossa Valley, Margaret River and McLaren Vale.

There is, though, so much more to discover. This is a land of honey, truffles, plump exotic fruits…and even extraordinarily good extra virgin olive oil.

The vast, changeable landscape and microclimates of Australia (32 times bigger than the UK), give root to bountiful larders of prime ingredients which, in the right hands, can be transformed into artisanal products, standing head and shoulders alongside some of Europe’s leading speciality brands.

For four decades, Random Harvest has been leading the charge when it comes to distinctive, fine Australian food, made with the very best 100% natural, native produce.

Matthew Jinks, who has worked in the food industry since he was 16, took on the established business, saying, “It’s a wonderful brand. Everything is gluten free and manufactured in small batches. There are no shortcuts. Consumers love our products – they can really taste the difference.”

Matthew’s passion is evident as he talks about every facet of Random Harvest, from the artisanal manufacturers who craft each jar, bottle or package to exacting standards using the brand’s time-honoured recipes, to building relationships with suppliers and distributors.

He is incredibly proud that, as well as being authentically Australian through and through, Random Harvest is also a genuine family business, with Matthew being joined by his eldest son, Nick, five years ago, and later by his three other children.

“That matters to us,” he explains. “Especially in this day and age where there are food companies backed by investors who aren’t involved. There can be a lot of smoke and mirrors in the food game, but we are real. We make products we know are fantastic, and we have very high morals.”

Naturally, the Jinks family are very protective of their brand and image. This, in turn, means they are highly engaged throughout the chain. In 2023, for example, they appointed Sapphire Brands as their sole UK importer. Nick spent many months in the UK with Sapphire Brands MD, Ian Food, to establish new sales channels here, leading to an exclusive distribution agreement with Cotswold Fayre.

“This is our baby,” Matthew says. “We like to get out with the sales representatives to talk to customers. That’s what we love.”

Crucially, these customers are all focussed in the speciality and fine food arena.

So, what does Random Harvest have to offer Britain’s farm shops, delis and food halls?

A key line is its collection of premium truffle-infused oils and condiments, beloved by shoppers at Harrods.

Historically associated with Italy, where trained hounds snuffle in damp undergrowth for the prized ingredient, it’s little-known that Tasmania is also renowned for growing and harvesting the edible fungus. Random Harvest’s truffle products, such as Australian Truffle Oil (made with fine extra virgin olive oil from the Hunter Valley), and Australian Truffle Salt, are in stores across 15 different markets, with the new Australian Truffle Hot Sauce “selling like hot cakes”.

It’s all part of the Jinks’ mandate to ensure everything they sell is ‘best in class’, says Matthew. “The quality of Tasmanian truffles is extremely well-known throughout Australia. We do use a small amount of natural aroma too, so it’s an entirely natural product.”

There are, he explains, very few truffle products which actually include ‘real’ truffle. “Many truffle oils don’t have truffle in them. It’s usually a cheaper oil with a synthetic aroma – those products give truffle oil a bad name.”

When consumers buy Random Harvest’s oil “and drizzle it over their mash, they can see the bits of real truffle,” Matthew adds.

Another source of pride is the brand’s caramelised balsamic vinegar, with strong growth seen in the versatile range.

Crafted to a secret recipe, which achieves the perfect level of caramelisation and a glossy, slightly sticky, moreish finish, the vinegars are available in flavours such as Cranberry & Orange, Truffle, Pear & Vanilla and Plum & Chipotle.

Matthew says, “Consumers love the consistency and texture, and people say they can use it as a glaze or a dressing. We’ve heard of them using it not only on salads, but on ice cream and strawberries, and at a trade show in Brisbane someone said they add our Fig, Honey & Vanilla caramelised vinegar to water to make a drink.”

So many dishes can be easily elevated with a dot of mustard – be it a classic bacon sandwich, a casserole, or even a marinade, and Random Harvest’s version is considered a cut above the rest. “We’ve got a fantastic range of mostly seeded mustards,” says Matthew, who adds that while standard seeded mustard usually has a crunch (that not everyone likes), their point of difference is that, “the seeds are soaked to within an inch of growing. The mouthfeel is really soft. And we have some delicious flavours. Peppercorn Shiraz, Chardonnay, Kalamata Olive, Fireball Chilli, even Pale Ale and Aged Whiskey.”

All of the above, and more, are available individually, and housed within attractively boxed gift sets – another spoke on the Random Harvest wheel - alongside a range of confectionery.

This line includes toothsome brittles and fudges, but both Matt and Nick have a soft spot for their Australian rock candy – which is the biggest sweet seller. “I know there’s rock candy in the UK,” says Nick, “but the flavour and look of ours is sensational. It’s all made by hand, so it’s a labour-intensive process.” Flavours include Watermelon, Passionfruit, and Choc Cherry.

Random Harvest will be spending 2024 establishing itself in the UK, and Matthew and Nick say they’re excited to be working with new speciality retailers here. Find out more via Cotswold Fayre, which will be hosting tastings of Random Harvest products in Sheffield on 24th January, Cheltenham on 25th January, Windsor on 30th January, and Cambridge on 31st January.

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