Welcome to our new series, Aussie Made Mates, where we have a chat with fellow Aussie businesses—mostly in the hiking, camping, outdoor space—about manufacturing products locally in Australia, and what it's like to run an Aussie business.
For the first installment of this series, we had a yarn with Michelle Ryan from Feed the Hike. Feed the Hike makes a range of dehydrated meals aimed at hikers, but Michelle has also written a couple of books, and runs a beaut cafe on the Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia.
Ottie Merino [OM]: Tell us what Feed the Hike does?
Michelle Ryan [MR]: Feed the Hike is all about feeding your adventures in a healthy yet convenient way. We are an Australian dehydrated food company that is designed and run by real hikers.
Feed the Hike offers yummy homemade dehydrated meals for when you are in the great outdoors. We have a range of delicious, homemade, wholesome meals packed that is full of healthy nutrients, very lightweight, does not take up much room in your pack, and also multi-purpose.
OM: What motivated you to get into the business of hiking meals?
MR: As a hiker of many decades, I realise that there was a calling for real homemade food that can be taken out on the trail. Having spent many years hiking trails throughout the world and in my homeland of Australia, I could see the effects on others who had not considered their nutrition fully while on the trail. As a long distance hiker, I know all too well of how the body responds and can break down over time if the nutritional needs are not met.
We tend to spend the big bucks on getting the best gear for our adventures, making sure our equipment is going to last the journey. This is important and will certainly help in making the journey a better one to enjoy. However, one thing I had started to notice was people did not tend to put that same money and effort in looking after their most valuable piece of equipment—their body!
If your equipment like your tent gets a rip or your backpack has a hole you will manage and it can be fixed. This does not necessarily mean you are off the trail or you adventure is over. If your body breaks down, then, more often than not, you are off the trail or adventure over!
When you don't have enough good fuel to feed your body, you will start to notice it getting more lethargic, your mind hazes over and you lose concentration. Your focus just is not as sharp as it can be, leading to a great risk of injury or getting lost. You might not be making the best choices or decisions and that can lead to making mistakes (and in some cases, serious and dangerous mistakes). The list of effects just keeps going but I think you may see what I am talking about. Look after your number one and most important piece of equipment and you will give yourself the best chance of having an amazing adventure, and then many more after.
OM: Why do you make your product in Australia?
MR: As we are Aussie, this is where we want to sell our product.
OM: What's your favourite item in your product line, and why?
MR: Have to say my soups! This is because when I hike, especially throughout Europe, I tend to have for my lunch a yummy vegetable soup as I find it is enough to fuel the rest of your day without the overload.
OM: What are the challenges of manufacturing locally?
MR: The cost and having a space suited to what we need. We have now opened our own kitchen to accommodate this issue. We also opened a café too to help pay for it—so twice as much work now.
OM: What do you think the future is for Australian manufacturing?
MR: I would like to think it is going to evolve more and we stop being so reliant on products from oversea. Try and invest our money back into our country and help grow local businesses.
OM: What's one thing you wish you could buy locally made?
MR: Hiking clothes to fit the larger woman.
OM: What is your favourite Australian made product?
MR: Feed the Hike of course!
OM: Vegemite - yes or no?
MR: Hell yes! I actually never go hiking without my tube of Vegemite! I sit and squeeze the tube into my mouth and follow with a cracker!