THE Sunshine Coast will never be as vast a "food bowl" as the Darling Downs or other areas where prime agricultural land stretches to the horizon, says Gourmet Garden head of marketing and innovation Jacqui Wilson-Smith.

But if farmers and food producers come together to drive innovation in their sectors, the greater Coast region could double its food production capacity by 2030.

"There's often a lot of talk about disruptive innovation in the digital sphere…(like) Apple or Uber, but it's possible to have disruptive innovation in any industry," Mrs Wilson-Smith said.

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"It's just looking at it differently and having a more lateral approach to solving the problem."

A founding member of the Food and Agribusiness Network, Mrs Wilson-Smith said she had a "deep passion" for the Palmwoods area, where she grew up, and wanted to ensure the Coast's food and agriculture industries are sustainable.

Jacqui Wilson-Smith, Head of Innovation and Marketing at Gourmet Garden in Palmwoods
Jacqui Wilson-Smith, Head of Innovation and Marketing at Gourmet Garden in Palmwoods john mccutcheon

Through her work with Palmwoods-based herb manufacturer Gourmet Garden, Mrs Wilson-Smith has helped cut a new path through conventional dried and preserved herb markets.

"When I use the term 'disruptive innovation', it means that we disrupted a marketplace, in that we did something that was different (and) unexpected to the consumers and to competitors," she said.

"In this case the biggest competitor was ourselves - we launched a range of products that were going to disrupt our tubes."

Gourmet Garden's multi-award winning range of Queensland-grown and packaged herb products pioneered a new kitchen system for cooks who love fresh herbs but were frustrated by waste.

The consumer-led product development identified that these "wilt guilt" sufferers loved fresh herbs, but found dried herbs more convenient.

Their first invention was a fresh herb paste range and it was successful but required the customer to learn how to use herb pastes in cooking.

The Gourmet Garden team realised a competitor would be able to disrupt their market by inventing a herb product that was close to fresh, had a long shelf life and could be sprinkled.

"We thought let's not wait for a competitor to do it, let's do it ourselves," Mrs Wilson-Smith said.

Gourmet Garden's 'lightly dried' herb range disrupted their tube paste range, but ultimately more than doubled overall sales.

Mrs Wilson-Smith will be among speakers to engage FAN members and the interested public at a workshop on innovation at the University of the Sunshine Coast on March 14.

Event

Date: Monday, March 14

Location: USC Innovation Centre,

90 Sippy Downs Dr,

Sippy Downs

Time: 4pm-7.30pm

Cost: $15/non-members $40

Bookings: www.foodagribusiness.org.au


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