Sally Paech of Beerenberg Farm

 
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We’ve all seen those little jars of yummy jams that have made Beerenberg a household name. And from its humble beginnings in the Adelaide Hills, Beerenberg Farm products are now found in dozens of countries around the world. It’s been a labour of love for this hard working family business, now in its sixth generation of the Paech family, marketing manager Sally Paech.

Leigh: So this all started with dad making his first batch of strawberry jam – how long ago was that?

Sally: That’s right. In the early 70’s he had too many fresh strawberries one day because he normally sold them at the fresh fruit markets and so he decided, well I’ll make some strawberry jam.

Leigh: And boy has it gone from there!

Sally: I know, I know! It’s amazing really, so that was the first product, he made the first batch one evening on mum’s kitchen stove, and she complained and the next day it all sold out in the shop, so he thought right, this is an opportunity.

Leigh: So it all started in 1971 which dad making a batch of strawberry jam on the stove at home, and phew, look at it now.

Sally: Well now we export to over twenty-three countries, we’re served in over three hundred hotels across, across the world, we have over sixty products.

Leigh: Now I’ve always called it Beer-inberg but I understand it’s actually called Beerenberg.

Sally: We pronounce it Bereen-berg because it’s German, it’s a loose translation of the German words Beeren – berg, sorry, meaning berry hill or berry mountain. So we pronounce it Beerenberg because that sounds more like the German pronunciation.

Leigh: Well I have to say whether you call it Beerinberg or beerenberg it’s still delicious!

Leigh: Sally, I have been guilty of nicking one or two of those little jars from all over Australia; tell me the story on how they came to be produced.

Sally: Well John Bannon was the Premier of South Australia at the time in the mid 80’s was on a flight from Singapore I think it was a Qantas flight and he was served English jam and he said in a media interview about something else he said well why am I getting English jam on a Qantas flight I should be getting Australian jam like Beerenberg, so dad got a call from the journalist the next day saying what are you going to do about this? And he thought – oh – I guess we should do something, he researched it and after quite some time and negotiating in terms of getting the glass and working with Qantas we got a Qantas contract.

Leigh: And recently the South Australian Telstra business of the year.

Sally: Yeah I know, really exciting. So lucky, we had such good competition, and really strong competition and we came out as winners.

Leigh: So do mum and dad look back at it now at the way the business has grown and I don’t know say – bugger me!

Sally: I think so. I think they feel very fortunate that it’s grown to this size, and also that we employ so many local people plus the fact that the three children are all working the business and all happy.

Leigh: Now the shop here at Hahndorf I know if exceptionally popular, you must have thousands coming through during the holiday season.

Sally: Oh unbelievable. During strawberry season which is October through to May or late October through to May we have literally thousands of people and the shop is full constantly, from nine till five seven days a week. And it is hectic.

Leigh: I know for many families it really is a destination trip into the hills, between as you say from late October to May to go and pick your own strawberries, it must be hugely popular.

Sally: It is. And people always say to us I brought my kids up here because I came here with my parents when I was a kid. I’ve got fond memories, it’s great, you get out in the fresh air, you eat a few, sample a few, not too many…

Leigh: -on the way to the register!

Sally: …yeah that’s right, and it’s just a really nice wholesome experience that people are really looking for these days and also it’s not expensive.

So the strawberry picking season is just around the corner! Since 1975 Beerenberg has traditionally opened it gates to let you pick your own, from November through to May. It’s a great day out for the family, so why don’t you head to the hills and have a go! You’ll find all the details on their website www.beerenberg.com.au.