Keeping it real in the Tweed
Tweed Real Food is a business launched in 2018 from a desire to be resilient. Little did founder Julia Foyster know how prescient her plan would turn out to be.
Julia, originally from Germany, married into a family that has been farming in the Northern Rivers for five generations, and during the decade that she worked on their farms in Tweed’s Mooball and also Far North Queensland’s Mareeba, while raising her young kids. She has witnessed first-hand the dramatic and heart-breaking consequences of natural disasters on Australian farmers.
Julia wanted to future proof against these harsh weather cycles and also carve out her own unique venture that was still connected to the family business. With this in mind she founded Tweed Real Food, producing locally-made Australian-owned balsamic vinegars, and herbs, spices and salts, all made from the highest quality produce.
The business combines Julia’s love of food with her background in global marketing. “I’ve always been a foodie and I’ve always liked to cook and eat good food,” Julia says. “And I wanted to suit my own skills to support the farm as best I could.”
Julia’s flair for creating fine foods was quickly recognised by some of Australia’s most discerning critics – with all four of her balsamic vinegars winning medals at the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show in 2021 and 2022 (selected from hundreds of products Australia-wide).
She knew there was a market of people in Australia willing to pay more for the highest quality produce that aligned with their values, both in terms of being Australian-made and sustainable (she uses labels printed on recycled paper in vegetable ink). She just didn’t anticipate how large that market would be.
“It has exceeded my vision. We doubled in the first year and then tripled the year after that,” Julia says. The business has more than 140 stockists across Australia and strong online sales direct to customers.
But the rapid growth was overwhelming and during COVID lockdowns in 2020, sales propelled so quickly that Julia decided to switch off all her paid advertising.
“I didn’t want to grow that fast. It was not what I set the business up for.” At the height of COVID the business had 15 employees, but the numbers have dropped with conscious downsizing and a strong focus on work-life balance for everyone in the team.
In 2021, Julia released a beautifully-presented book, There is a story behind every meal, that includes recipes that weave in her products and stories of her family’s farming life.
“I always like to treat Tweed Real Food as a platform to tell the stories behind the scenes,” she says, which she started through posts on social media. “And our customers kept asking for recipes, so I thought, ‘Okay, let’s do it, I’ll write half a recipe book and also stories of observing my family and how we’ve overcome the natural disasters.”
The response to the book was incredible, with hundreds of copies sold before she’d even officially launched or started promoting it.
Through all the ups and downs of natural disasters and runaway business success, the heart of Tweed Real Food remains local. The business is one of the first food labels to lead with the region in its name and Julia is excited to see the reputation of the Tweed flourish as a food and tourism hub.
Julia also deeply values the collaborations she’s made with other local food organisations such as Our Cow – a Tweed cattle farm that distributes top quality Australian meats – and the strong relationships she’s forged with local suppliers, including the Tweed Valley Whey cheese factory in Burringbar, the Mooball Post Office and Crabbes Creek shop.
“I fell in love with this area when I first came to Australia 13 years ago as a backpacker and was picking coffee on a farm in Tintenbar,” she says. Now as part of her farming family she thrives on the local connections she’s built.
“When we work together, we achieve so much more.”