A Sunshine Coast-based fresh sauce maker has celebrated its 1000th flavour and has no intention of slowing down with the recent announcement of a multimillion-dollar site expansion to allow for continued company growth.
Based in Yandina, Epicurean Products – known as EP – supplies bespoke dressings and sauces for many well-known national brands, with a particular focus on the premium convenience sector.
The locally owned business was founded 11 years ago. Now around three million Australian households consume EP’s fresh sauces every year, mostly found in fresh meal kits sold in supermarkets and online.
To meet growing demand, EP founding director Tim Spence Thomas recently announced a $2 million site expansion to the existing factory that will house a state-of-the-art steam cooking facility, a revamped customer kitchen and additional cold storage.
“The investment will enable EP to expand its product range and increase annual output to around 40 tonnes of fresh sauces per day, whilst maintaining quality,” Mr Spence Thomas says.
Recently releasing it 1000th flavour, a mixed berry compote, the expansion will allow EP to produce more flavours in the future as well as employ more local staff.
“We currently employ 56 temporary and permanent staff,” Mr Spence Thomas says. “In the last 12 to 18 months we’ve employed an extra 12 to 15 people and we expect that to continue.”
Mr Spence Thomas says over the years the business has adapted traditional manufacturing practices to ensure it can meet the needs of a convenience sector.
“Our complex manufacturing system is designed to respond to a national supply chain that works in real time, supplying customers who want more quality and choice delivered much faster.
“We believe customised fresh food is the future and EP is building the systems to support it.”
Brands contact EP who then work with the client to develop a dressing or sauce to fit specific requirements, before manufacturing and packaging the product ready to be sent direct to the retailer, client or meal manufacturer.
Mr Spence Thomas says EP has developed its “fresh for longer technology” to increase the shelf life of some products by up to 100 per cent without using preservatives or additives, allowing products to stand the test of time for customers who supply Australia-wide.
“We are a food manufacturer, but we are also a technology business, and underpinning that technology is a significant amount of research and development,” he says.
“We employ around three food scientists, so quite a lot of our focus, while we make beautiful food, is making sure the dressings are fresh.”
EP received a state government Made in Queensland grant 18 months ago that went towards investment in flexible manufacturing and packaging technology.
In an effort to become more sustainable, EP has also invested in a large solar system for its Yandina factory.
“Today over 35 per cent of our sauces are powered by the sun and we’ll achieve over 85 per cent by 2022.”
Furthering the push for sustainability, the business recently achieved Australian Certified Organic accreditation and has expanded its range to support a growing demand for plant-based and vegan sauces.
Mr Spence Thomas says as part of this, EP sources fresh ingredients throughout the local region and none of its products use additives or preservatives.
“Although food science and technology plays an important role in our business, our primary mission is to make great food using fresh Australian ingredients wherever possible.
“In the last 12 months alone, the business has invested millions back into the Queensland economy, including partnering several local primary producers.”
Over the years customer favourites have included Thai green curry, mango and chilli, classic hoisin sauce, vegan Caesar, chipotle mayo, parmesan ranch, miso vinaigrette and yoghurt and chia flavours.
The factory expansion is due for completion by the end of winter.