I’ve only ever had one tomato sauce in my house. Rosella Tomato Sauce. I have Rosella in my house because that’s what my Mum has always had in her’s. It’s what I grew up with. It’s not that I have tomato sauce on every meal but when I do have sauce, I want it to be rich and savoury, not sugary and insipid like those foreign interlopers. A few years back when I heard that Rosella was in trouble and shutting down, I did a panic buy of tomato sauce to make sure I had enduring supply for some time to come. Unbeknownst to me, my Mum did the same thing and also bought a few extra bottles for me. My Mum is very serious about her tomato sauce. At her wedding, she had a jug of it piped in to the wedding table by a bagpiper. Quite the statement in 1960’s wedding etiquette. So you can imagine how happy I was when Rosella didn’t shut down and how thrilled I was when I had the opportunity to talk with the man who ensured I had a regular supply of sauce (and tomato soup) for years to come.
Dan Presser tells me he’s just a regular person that does the things that normal people do. Going to work, spending time with family and enjoying travel. Then how has this normal person been able to revitalise a much loved Australian company and transform it into an Aussie owned and operated business that uses 100% Australian ingredients? At the end of my interview is a chance to win a Rosella prize pack.
Dan, thanks for talking with me. The purchase of Rosella – what were the motivating factors behind this?
‘Rosella started in 1895, making jams and fruit preserves in a back yard. They began making tomato sauce in 1889. I remember visiting my grandmother in Auchenflower and recall a wood stove and my grandmother serving Rosella sauce, chutneys and soups to us. I grew up with Rosella. It’s part of my childhood as it has been for many Australians. In 1994 Unilever put it up for sale where it went through a series of sales to other businesses and a private equity firm. Rosella had been pretty much unloved as a business for several years so when it came back on the market I approached my team about whether we should buy it. They said ‘go for it’ so I did. We bought Rosella two years ago in March and have never looked back.’
And what have been the biggest challenges?
‘There’s been no massive challenges really and there’s been incremental positive movement. Everyone’s working towards the same goal of resurrecting an iconic Australian brand and securing a place in Australia’s heart. We’re in the phase of courting the public and trying to bridge the 20 year generation gap where the brand lost visibility. Brand recognition is incredibly high at 90% for prompted recognition. We need to engage an entire generation that we lost touch with and remind others that we’re still making great products.
Alan Johnston (famous amongst other things for the C’Mon Aussie C’Mon ads) came out of retirement to help the business by doing the new Rosella ad (watch it here). He said ‘What can I do to help?’. We’ve also had pretty good support from Coles, Woolworths and IGA as consumers want the product which means it’s easy for them (the supermarkets) to stock and sell.’
When Australians hear the word ‘Rosella’, what do you want them to think?
Purity of food, best tasting, best quality, provenance. Provenance is important – we know where the product comes from and what’s in it. We don’t use pastes or powders in our products but fresh ingredients. We talk about cheeses from France and the farmers who produce olive oil in Italy. Why not be proud of what we grow here in Australia? There’s no reason why Rosella can’t be the flagship brand that Australians are proud to promote and call their own.
Next time you pick up a bottle of tomato sauce, give Rosella a go. See if it’s not the best you’ve ever tasted. Just think for a moment about the number of people you are helping by supporting this Australian brand; farmers, truck drivers, processors, factory workers, administrative staff. It’s a big reason to give the local brand a go and it’s no more expensive than the imports.’
Are there any future plans for Rosella that you can share?
‘This year is the 120th Anniversary for Rosella so we’ll be doing some special promotions later in the year. These are still under wraps but keep a look out. One thing we want to do is get the public involved by sharing Rosella treasures. The company has been going a long time so we’re keen to see and use some older memorabilia that people may have tucked away such as old factory or staff photos, old bills of sale or ephemera as well as information about former staff social or sporting clubs. If they have anything like this, they should contact Rosella via our contact form on the website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org’
I’m running a competition for readers about a favourite sauce or soup memory or story. Do you have one you’d like to share?
‘I was in LA recently and visited a woman who is the mother of a boy I grew up with in Brisbane. She’s 92 now and she told me ‘I remember when I was a little girl, my dad used to paint the signs for Rosella on the shop windows in Brisbane.’ I thought that was a great story and really showed how many people have memories about Rosella.’
So there you have it, the story of an Aussie brand that fell on hard times but has been brought back from the brink through dedication, hard work and bloody good tomato sauce. Rosella doesn’t just make sauce of course. Their tomato soup is also the only tinned soup we have in our house and they make a range of other chutneys and relishes. They also make an excellent minced ginger which can be handy when you’re in a rush. Visit the website or follow Rosella on social media to learn about upcoming events and activities.
WIN! Bring the Taste of Rosella Home – THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED
The winner is Shannan for her hilarious story about a sauce packet that was not going to give up its content easily and the ensuing red carpet massacre. Congratulations Shannan.
I’ve told you about my stockpiling of sauce and my Mum having sauce piped into her wedding. What’s your favourite sauce or soup memory (Rosella or other)? By sharing it, you have a chance to win* a Rosella prize pack and taste the good stuff! The prize pack includes
- Rosella Tomato Sauce 600ml glass bottle
- Rosella Tomato Chutney 250g
- Rosella Corn Relish 250g
- Rosella Sweet Mustard Pickles 250g
- Rosella Fruit Chutney 250g
To win this great prize:
1. Follow TIFFIN via email subscription (up on the right)
2. Share your favourite memory or story about any sauce or soup (Rosella or other) in the comments section
Now, it’s over to you…
TIFFIN was not requested nor paid to write this story. Rather, TIFFIN asked to share Rosella’s story so more people would know about this great Aussie brand. Prize provided by AC Agency on behalf of Rosella.
Competition Conditions – THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED
- This competition is a game of skill
- The winner will be judged by TIFFIN and her decision will be final!
- *Entry is only open to Australian residents. Non Australian residents are still welcome to leave a comment!
- To qualify for the prize, entrants must have a confirmed subscription to TIFFIN and have left a story or memory in TIFFIN comments
- Competition is open between 6pm Tuesday 24 February 2014 and 6pm Tuesday 10 March 2014
- Winner will be notified via email and announced on TIFFIN platforms
- Prize will be posted to the winner by AC Agency. Please allow time for processing and posting.