From ‘curry in a can’ and kangaroo tail soup, to its famous range of herbs and spices in kitchens across Australia, iconic dinnertime brand MASTERFOODS™ turns 75 this month.
To celebrate, the home-grown Aussie brand has cracked open its archives to share forgotten family food treasures and amusing old adverts that reveal just how much Australian tastes have changed over the past 75 years.
Shaping our tastes since 1945, MasterFoods started as a family business selling speciality foods, herbs and spices that were either imported or made in its original warehouse in Sydney’s Redfern, and sold mostly in delicatessens.
Over the next seven decades, the family company emerged as a flavour trendsetter, introducing many Australians to more and more 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 1950s delicacies like Roll Mops (pickled herring), Mint Jelly, Sauerkraut and the hottest of Hot English Mustards (MasterFoods was the first to produce a prepared hot English mustard that actually kept its heat).
In the 1960s, the company’s forward-thinking was on show with the release of its popular Kangaroo Tail Soup, which was served by Qantas Airways, while the 1970s saw increasing demand for convenient packet seasonings and herbs.
The 1980s saw the rise of MasterFoods’ own cookbooks which could be found in kitchens across Australia, while in the 1990s, MasterFoods innovated the humble tomato sauce bottle by launching the world’s first squeezy sauce bottle as well as the iconic single serve squeeze-on sauces now a staple at takeaway shops. As we hit the new millennium, MasterFoods expanded its range to include more lifestyle-driven convenience products and continued to influence how we cook and what we eat at home.
Internationally renowned food writer and culinary historian, Barbara Santich, who has long explored the Australian culinary landscape said:
“From early days, cooks in Australia have shown great inventiveness, experimenting with indigenous foods and incorporating them into familiar dishes, adapting and varying recipes and practices from other food cultures, and largely ignoring traditional rules to develop dishes that are characteristically Australian. Over 75 years, MasterFoods has been similarly creative, anticipating and responding to changes in tastes and techniques with products such as its Chilly Sauce and Red Hot Pepper Sauce in the 1950s, and its Chunky Zucchini in Tomato & 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.”
MasterFoods was first registered by Australian specialty food importer Henry Lewis in 1945 and has remained at the forefront of food trends ever since. The company changed ownership in 1967 when Mr Lewis sold to the Mars family, which was the catalyst that helped accelerate MasterFoods’ vision of bringing new and exciting ingredients to Australian kitchens on a larger scale.
Mars Food Australia, General Manager, Bill Heague, said:
“Today we mark the heritage of a taste-maker brand that for the last 75 years has set food trends, introduced Australians to bold, new international flavours, and remains committed to celebrating multiculturalism and connecting people through food. As a family business, MasterFoods has from the beginning, recognised the physical and emotional benefits of shared dinners and remains committed to making dinnertime not only more flavourful, but more meaningful.
“MasterFoods is continuing to expand its range to suit Australians’ changing wants and needs, so we’re looking at how we can create more plant-based products, expand our herb range beyond just dried herbs and make healthy, tasty meals more convenient. We want Australians to try new things and go rogue in the kitchen, and we want to help families and friends discover the joy of cooking and sharing dinner. We’re always evolving our brand to ensure that we are, and always have been, Australia’s dinnertime brand.”
Seventy-five years on and the much-loved family-run business now based on the NSW Central Coast, continues to find ways to satisfy the changing palates and lifestyles of Australians with new products that speak to the current mood from convenient 15-minute meals, to the latest tomato sauce with hidden vegetable. MasterFoods celebrates its official birthday on 20 July 2020.