How we set out to revolutionise Australian home cooking one sprinkle at a time

How we set out to revolutionise Australian home cooking one sprinkle at a time

Australians today are more time poor yet more diet conscious than ever. We want to know what goes into our food and where it comes from. In the past few years, demand for sustainable and locally grown products has gone through the roof.

Australia is leading the global trend of plant-based foods with the third-fastest growing vegan population worldwide. It has been reported that 2.1 million Aussies (8.7% of the population) are committed to a plant-based diet.

And we’re trying to follow healthier diets. Surveys show that the grocery shopping and cooking habits of modern Australian families are positively changing and one in five Australians wants to cook more because of the financial, social and health benefits of home cooking. Australian men are increasingly more interested in meal preparation and entertaining guests, with 32% of men buying less convenience and ready-made meals. 54% of millennials are cooking for friends and throwing dinner parties. Australian families are showing a preference for fresh, home cooked meals, focusing on purchasing more fruit and vegetables and reading product labels.

Enter Sprinkle, a Melbourne-based start-up with a bold mission to empower us to cook fuss-free, healthy food without compromising on flavour and change the way we view and use spices while we’re at it.

You can have it all

I was born and raised in Haifa, a mediterranean city in the north of Israel. I grew up in a melting pot of global cuisines, where spices are a way of life and cooking almost always involves one spice blend or another. From a young age, I used to help my grandmother cook simple food made out of fresh, locally grown produce and shop at the local “shouk” (market in Hebrew) to stock up on freshly ground spices.

In Israel, you’d usually buy fresh za’atar, ras-el-hanout or baharat at the market when you do your weekly shopping but it’s also very normal to make your own blends at home by mixing a bit of paprika, cumin, cloves, cinnamon and maybe some herbs. The thought of cooking without spices is inconceivable. You’d never slide a bland chicken into the oven. It has to have flavour and lots of it.

While living overseas, I’ve experimented with making spice blends at home - partly for fun and mostly out of frustration with seasoning options that just didn’t taste like the real thing back in Israel. As I immersed myself in the world of spices and herbs, I became fascinated with their ancient history and natural healing properties.

Over the years, my partner, Daniel, and I have lived in the US, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. We were inspired by spice shops in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem open air markets and farmers’ markets like Borough Market in London. When we moved back to Australia in 2016 and couldn’t find authentic and healthy spice blends, the idea for Sprinkle was born. To us, Sprinkle is about raising the bar on what spices mean and how they’re used in everyday life to transform our food and improve our well being.

Our philosophy is simple - healthy eating doesn’t have to be restrictive, boring or bland. You don’t have to choose between what’s good for you and what you love eating. And there's not much point cooking healthy ingredients if you are going to flavour them with inferior seasoning products and processed condiments. You can have it all. The answer is spices. But they must be done right.

We obsessed over every detail of our blend recipes for over a year and tested them on family and friends before launching our online store in May 2018. Our ever growing range features spice blends, BBQ rubs and single origin spices inspired by Middle Eastern, North African, American and Mediterranean cuisines as well as Australian gourmet salts and modern Australian cuisine.

We search far and wide to find the finest quality single origin, certified organic ingredients. Those precious ingredients, often whole spices, are then roasted, ground, blended and bottled by us at our newly opened factory in Melbourne, using traditional techniques and our own exclusive recipes.

What's wrong with conventional spices

Our goal is to bring out spices’ natural goodness. Spices and herbs are 100% plant based - they are the seeds, leaves, flowers, bark or roots of plants from all over the world. So they don’t just add a lot of natural flavour to your food, they are richer in nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants than any other condiment. Many spices and herbs are thought to help fight inflammation, reduce cholesterol, assist digestion and even fight neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of "conventional" spices sold by supermarkets and other retailers couldn’t be farther from the real thing. Many of these products are not only loaded with processed salt, sugar, preservatives, artificial colours and flavours, MSG and anti-caking agents, they are often already stale and flavourless because they’re heavily processed, adulterated and mass-manufactured months if not years before they reach our kitchens. Those spices may have been sitting on shelves or self-scoop containers for a while or mixed in with less fresh batches. All of which degrades their potency, aroma and naturally occurring nutrients.

So it’s not hard to see why for some of us, spices aren’t that exciting. Freshly ground spices should burst with vibrant colours, have bold, pungent aromas and lend bright flavours. You should be able to smell, see and taste their distinctive properties, whether it’s sweetness, heat, tartness or savouriness.

We prides ourselves on using Australian certified organic ingredients in all our products and making our blends from scratch, in small batches, never allowing any nasties. Spices and dried herbs don’t really expire but they tend to fade and lose their lustre and flavour over time, especially if not stored properly. Plastic containers, sachets and shakers are not air tight and contribute to faster oxidation of spices and loss of flavour. That’s why conventional spices you see in stores may seem pale and powdery, lack a pungent aroma and often taste chalky and bland.

It’s important to buy freshly ground spices, in smaller quantities, and keep them in glass (not plastic) airtight containers, away from direct sunlight and heat. Just like wine, coffee and chocolate, which are all derived from natural products, quality can differ massively between the carefully crafted stuff and everything else out there. Our goal is to make the best possible craft spice blends by focusing on freshness, sustainability and authenticity.   

We also aim to innovate in the traditional food retail space by focusing on a pure-play ecommerce operation. Some brands rent expensive retail store space, have large numbers of staff, incur huge marketing spends or outsource manufacturing and fulfillment. That adds big costs at every stage. We’re keen to make affordable premium products and pass our operational cost savings on to our customers.

We believe that the online shopping experience in Australia could be better. So we’re laser focused on all customer touch points to ensure our customers enjoy shopping with us and have an awesome brand experience - from our website to customer service, delivery speed and unboxing experience, it’s all been thoughtfully designed to be positive, environmentally conscious and fun. We genuinely care about inspiring people to cook better food and lead better lives on the whole.