Trends

Sustainable produce focus helps you stand out

ONE WAY TO distinguish yourself from the competition is to “go the extra mile with food preparation”, as Daniel Luxford of Sydney pizza chain Rocketboy describes it.

Dan’s focus is on using fresh seasonal produce from sustainable sources — so Rocketboy sautees its own mushrooms, grills its own eggplant, roasts its own pumpkin, pickles its own fennel and grows fresh ingredients like kale.

Rocketboy produces much of the food for its restaurants from a central prep kitchen in the inner city suburb of Petersham, including its own ‘home made’ sauces and marinades which are distributed fresh to its other outlets on a daily basis.

The starting point for the business was Dan and his partners being asked to participate in a TV documentary by Gourmet Farmer filmmaker Matthew Evans.

“We wanted to use sustainable Australian seafood rather than imported seafood on our pizzas and were able to get the product we wanted at the right pricepoint,” Dan explains.

Sustainbility is fast becoming a buzzword with the public and food bloggers and usually refers to food which is produced, farmed or manufactured with respect for the sustainability of the environment as well as the integrity of the food itself.

Making these a focus of your pizza operation can certainly achieve cut-through from the competition, as the example of Rocketboy confirms.

While this may seem like a comparatively new trend, in Dan Luxford’s case it’s something that goes back to his childhood upbringing on an organic farm in England.

“I wanted to see whether a pizza business could go down more of a sustainable, organic route,” he says. “With each menu upgrade we’ve looked into products like organic chicken or lamb and we’ve also tried to reduce the amount of imported product from Italy. We look to replace these products with ones from Australian producers — slowly but surely our endgame is to see how we can bring quality, sustainable, healthier Australian produce into the pizza market. We want to be a real community pizza business, with our roots in Australia and our supply based on NSW growers and producers.”

Sourcing local produce from quality suppliers is an essential component of this process, and here Rocketboy’s Petersham location certainly helps.

“There are quite a few great producers in the local area,” Dan confirms. “We use the Black Forest Smokehouse in Marrickville, our organic chicken comes from Inglewood up in Queensland, our extra virgin olive oil is produced in NSW and our goat’s cheese comes from a dairy in Victoria. We go to the markets ourselves twice a week and deal with the growers there for our vegetables and fruit.”

As a keen advocate for food sustainability and organic farming methods, Dan is keen to include organic produce on the menu where practicable. Currently Rocketboy uses organic chicken and lamb along with free range bacon. He describes their prawns as a “game changer” — “They’re all coming from fisheries in the Northern Territory, which we understand are the only two in Australia with MSC certification* for their practices.”

An ongoing commitment to utilising these types of ingredients can create a point of differentiation for your pizza operation’s menu and Dan says it is paying off for Rocketboy. “I think it generates a lot of goodwill. Certainly when the TV documentary went to air and we were included there was a huge reaction to that.”

But while choosing the best quality ingredients and taking extra care in food preparation can set your business apart, Dan points out that you shouldn’t stray too far from what the customer expects to find on the menu.

“We try to play around with versions of the recipes that are current at the moment, experimenting with different flavours,” he acknowledges, “but the traditional pizzas will always be a big part of your sales, up to 50 per cent in fact, so you can’t afford not to include them.”

  • Certification from the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) guarantees that seafood has been sustainably harvested from areas which can be naturally replenished or are unthreatened, helping to safeguard seafood stocks for future generations. You can find more information about the MSC’s certification and eco-labelling system by visiting www.msc.org.