Behind the farm gate: Seconds become top drop

THE thought of good food going to waste didn't sit well with Holger Ostersen and his wife Jan Hughes.

The couple moved to Scottsdale from Tanzania, where they witnessed people literally starving from lack of food.

Seeing the immense waste produced by a rhubarb farmer in their area, the couple decided to build their business using the seconds and developed their business RhuBru.

"Straight away we could see that there was a lot of waste," Mr Ostersen said.

"I think one of the biggest things for us, and it may not have been conscious at the time, was that the fact that we just spent 20 years in Africa where you waste nothing and people are starving in front of you," Ms Hughes said.

"Then you come home here and you see a business that can be productive but they have so much waste attached to it and what we saw was a great business opportunity."

Starting in March 2008, by that September the couple had already sold their first bottle of rhubarb juice and have only moved onwards and upwards since.

"By the end of 2009 we had five products," Mr Ostersen said.

"And it really wasn't until after two years that we started to develop more jams and jellies."

Initially production was all by hand and the couple hand capped and labelled the first 5000 bottles before Mr Ostersen hit the streets to market his products.

"Holger just filled the Pajero up chock-a-block and took off," Ms Hughes said with a wide grin.

"It actually wasn't that hard to convince people to take our juice," Mr Ostersen said.

"Then after the first 12 months we started to create another four products."

Now the couple produces 21 different products including jams, jellies, syrups and compotes that are distributed to more than 200 outlets across the state.

Already this year RhuBru has used more than four tonnes of the raw product in the first six weeks of production.

While living in Tanzania, Mr Ostersen had a business producing jams and marmalades and so had plenty of experience in the industry already.

RhuBru now employs eight casuals to pick and handle the rhubarb for production, a product that without the couple's imagination would just be compost in the field.

"We use the seconds, those that are too short or have a scratch or something and we process them," Mr Ostersen said.

"There is nothing wrong with them, they just weren't good enough for the customer's eye in the supermarkets."

Over the next 12 months the couple plan on turning their other business, Beulah House Bed and Breakfast, into Rhubarb House, where they will have a store front for their rhubarb treats.

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