From 'curry in a can' and kangaroo tail soup, to its range of herbs and spices in kitchens across Australia, MasterFoods has been a staple in our pantries for 75 years this month.
To celebrate, the home-grown Aussie brand has cracked open its archives to share forgotten family food treasures and old adverts that reveal just how much Australian tastes have changed over the past three quarters of a century.
MasterFoods started as a family business selling speciality foods in 1945 - herbs and spices that were either imported or made in its original warehouse in Sydney's Redfern, and sold mostly in delicatessens.
Over the next seven decades, the company introduced many Australians to more flavours from around the world.
In the 1950s, MasterFoods produced its first food item, Bread and Butter Cucumbers, alongside other 1950s delicacies like Roll Mops (pickled herring), Mint Jelly, Sauerkraut and Hot English Mustard.
In the 1960s, the company released its Kangaroo Tail Soup, served by Qantas Airways, while the 1970s saw increasing demand for convenient packet seasonings and herbs.
The 1980s saw the rise of MasterFoods' own cookbooks while in the following decade MasterFoods innovated the humble tomato sauce bottle by launching the world's first squeezy sauce bottle as well as the single serve squeeze-on sauces - now a staple at takeaway shops.
MasterFoods was first registered by Australian specialty food importer Henry Lewis in 1945. The company changed ownership in 1967 when Mr Lewis sold to the Mars family and is now based on the NSW Central Coast.
Mars Food Australia general manager, Bill Heague, said MasterFoods was a "taste-maker brand" that has been setting food trends for the last 75 years and has "introduced Australians to bold, new international flavours".
"As a family business, MasterFoods has from the beginning, recognised the physical and emotional benefits of shared dinners and remains committed to making dinnertime not only more flavourful, but more meaningful."
He said the brand was now looking at creating more plant-based products, expanding its herb range "beyond just dried herbs" and making healthy, tasty meals more convenient.
"We want Australians to try new things and go rogue in the kitchen, and we want to help families and friends discover the joy of cooking and sharing dinner."
Did you know?
- Home pickling enjoying a revival now, but in the 1950s pickle sandwiches were both tasty and cheap to eat. In fact, Bread and Butter Cucumbers were the first product manufactured by MasterFoods at its original warehouse in Redfern, Sydney.
- In the late 1950s and 1960s MasterFoods was Australia's largest importer of olives and employed people to carefully hand-pack each stuffed olive into jars with surgical tweezers to make sure the pimento was displayed.
- Purse strings were tightened after WW2, and cheap cuts of meat like lamb shanks and lamb sides were popular. MasterFoods' 'meat tenderiser' seasoning made even the cheapest cuts of meat taste tender and expensive.
- MasterFoods founders believed so strongly in the Promite - hailed as the nutritious spread of the 1960s - that they looked into gifting a jar to every Aussie family with a one-year old - if you started them early, they'd be Promite fans for life.
- Grazing 'platters' are back in a big way, but remember the grazing boards of the 60s and 70s that typically featured 'gourmet' conserved and canned food products? MasterFoods canned meat pastes made common dips and spreads, while relishes, pickles, and olives were served with crackers, on devilled eggs and on sandwiches.
- Now a staple in most Aussie pantries, MasterFoods' range of herbs and seasonings became quite the collectible. For just $2 in 1976, Australian Women's Weekly readers could receive an extendable MasterFoods' spice rack and recipe book to hang their spices pride of place in their kitchens.
- Flying Qantas during the 1960s? You could expect to see MasterFoods' Kangaroo Tail Soup on your in-flight menu. The soup consisted of kangaroo tails flavoured with sherry.
- High rates of immigration from south-east Asia in the 1960s and 1970s expanded Australian multicultural cuisine to what we know today. MasterFoods began producing canned Kan Tong Asian Vegetables for restaurants and consumers who wanted easy access to Asian vegetables like baby corn.
- Italian cooking with maximum convenience - in the 1980s MasterFoods produced Australia's first ever spaghetti bolognese sauce, Alora (now known as Dolmio). Almost half of Australians were eating spaghetti bolognese at least once a week during the 1980s.
Olive Cheese Balls recipe
- 35 large stuffed olives
- 1 1/2 cups Tasty cheese, grated
- 125g butter, softened
- 1/4 tsp MasterFoods Celery Salt
- 3/4 tsp MasterFoods Thyme Leaves
- 1/4 tsp MasterFoods Cayenne Pepper Ground
- 1 1/2 cups plain flour
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Drain olives and pat dry with a paper towel. Preheat oven to moderately hot (190 C)
- Place cheese, celery salt, thyme, cayenne pepper in a food processor and process until mixture is smooth. Add flour and process until mixture is combined.
- Take a spoonful of the mixture and flatten in the palm of your hand to a 3cm round. Place and olive in the centre and mould cheese mixture around olive. Roll into a ball.
- Place olives on a lightly-greased baking tray and brush with beaten egg. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with drinks.
Herb and garlic pate
- 250g butter or margarine
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1tsp MasterFoods Freshly Crushed Garlic
- 500g chicken livers, trimmed and chopped (see note)
- 1 tsp MasterFoods Sage Leaves Ground
- 1 tsp MasterFoods Parsley Flakes
- 1 tsp MasterFoods Chives Chopped
- 1/4 cup brandy or port
- 1/4 tsp MasterFoods Herb Salt
- 1/4 tsp MasterFoods Black Peppercorns Cracked
- MasterFoods Bay Leaves
- 60g butter or margarine, extra
- Melt 60g butter in large frying pan. Saute onion and freshly crushed garlic until onion is tender.
- Add livers. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes o until slightly pink in the centre.
- Place remaining softened butter, liver mixture, ground sage leaves, parsley flakes, chopped chives, brandy, herb salt and cracked black peppercorns in a food processor. Process until smooth.
- Pour into a serving dish. Decorate with bay leaves. Melt extra butter until frothy. Remove sediment. Pour remaining liquid (clarified butter) over bay leaves. Refrigerate until set. Serve with crusty bread.
Note: If liked, use a combination of livers, eg duck, turkey if available.
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