75 years of an iconic Aussie brand

23rd July 2020 | Eativity editors

From humble beginnings with bread and butter pickles, curry in a can and kangaroo tail soup to its current huge range of herbs and spices, MasterFoods turns 75 this month.

To celebrate, the home-grown Aussie brand has cracked open its archives to share some forgotten family food treasures and amusing old advertisements that reveal just how much Australian tastes have changed over the past 75 years.

Ah, tinned paste: win Mother of the Year one minute, dazzle dinner guests the next.

MasterFoods was first registered by Australian specialty food importer Henry Lewis in 1945, and started as a family business selling speciality foods, herbs and spices that were either imported or made in a warehouse in Sydney’s Redfern and sold mostly in delicatessens.

Over the next seven decades, the company emerged as a flavour trendsetter, introducing many Australians to herbs, spices and flavours from all around the world.

In the 1950s, MasterFoods produced its first food item, bread and butter cucumbers, alongside other popular delicacies like rollmops (pickled herrings), mint jelly, sauerkraut and the hottest of hot English mustards.

MasterFoods was obviously an early innovator in the “pregnancy craving” market.

In the 1960s, the company released its kangaroo tail soup, which was served by Qantas Airways, while the 1970s saw increasing demand for packet seasonings and herbs.

The 1980s saw the rise of MasterFoods’ cookbooks, while in the 1990s, MasterFoods innovated the humble tomato sauce bottle by launching the world’s first squeezy sauce bottle as well as single serve squeeze-on sauces. Then, as we hit the new millennium, MasterFoods expanded its range to include more lifestyle-driven convenience products.

Curry in a can, favourite of gourmands and male chauvinists everywhere.

“From early days, cooks in Australia have shown great inventiveness, experimenting with indigenous foods and incorporating them into familiar dishes, adapting and varying recipes from other food cultures, and largely ignoring traditional rules to develop dishes that are characteristically Australian,” says food writer and culinary historian, Barbara Santich.

“Over 75 years, MasterFoods has anticipated and responded to changes in tastes and techniques with products such as its chilli sauce and red hot pepper sauce in the 1950s, and its chunky zucchini in tomato and parsley sauce in the 1980s. It has been an enduring and valued part of our kitchens, helping advance our food culture by catapulting new flavours and foods into the mainstream.”

“I would eat anything for love…. but I won’t eat that.”

Today, MasterFoods remains a family-run business as part of Mars Food Australia. The brand contains over 450 products, the majority of which are manufactured or packaged on the NSW Central Coast, with a number of products exported to countries across Asia Pacific.

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