Paddy Pallin: Hi Analise, Can you tell us a little about yourself, and Back Country Cuisine?

Analise: Back Country Foods Ltd was established in August 1998 to take over the freeze dried meals business founded by the Alliance Freezing Company. The company owns freeze drying plant and other equipment necessary to manufacture our freeze dried meals. Where possible the company uses local ingredients grown in the natural environment with a minimum of chemicals. The company takes pride in setting high standards of Quality and Food Hygiene. The company is licenced to the highest export standards and conducts regular testing on its products to ensure they meet strict standards. The improvements in technology and systems have allowed the company to go from producing 500 meals a day back in 99 to close to 7000 currently.

I, myself have been with the company since 1999 and have had the privilege of watching the growth take place. I have gained a lot of experience from the many roles I have performed at BCF which I would not have been able to do elsewhere. My love of the outdoors definitely stems from growing and working within the outdoor industry.

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What was your journey, how you found yourself at Back Country Cuisine and your role?

I got the call as a young 14 year old student to do some labelling temp work for a couple of days over the Christmas holidays. A couple of days turned into years and from there I moved to the production area as an after school job, into the office for university holidays, and finally after studying I came back to fill my current role as Assistant Manager. I can say I have spent over half my life at Back Country and performed nearly every job role.

Do you remember your first outdoor experience?

My first outdoor experience was a school camp; we were heading out to a small island which was an hour ferry ride away. We did a three day trek and at the end of the first day the teacher cracked out some BCC meals for our dinner. I was pretty stoked to be able to fill everyone in on how the food was made and claim to have labelled the packets!

Where is your favourite hiking/skiing/travelling/climbing etc spot?

Definitely some of the South Island of NZ great walks which we are lucky to have a couple of hours up the road, right on our back doorstep.

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Tell us, where is your dream hiking/skiing/travelling/climbing etc location is?

Would have to say the 4 day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu is on the bucket list for sure.

Why do you love hiking/skiing/travelling/climbing etc so much?

I have an inquisitive nature so I love to hike and travel in order to experience new places and meet new people.

 What is the current relevance of Back Country Cuisine for Australian hikers?

Back Country has been around for many years now and is a trusted brand to many outdoor adventurers. People are slowly coming around to the fact that freeze dried food is no longer the bland and colourless military rations but in fact real food which retains the fresh flavours and provides essential nutrients. I know in both NZ and Australia it is not uncommon to retire to a hut for the night to a sea of people preparing and eating Back Country Cuisine meals.

 What is the process of manufacturing a meal?

All ingredients are individually prepared for freeze drying by being cooked, diced or blended. The ingredients are the then transferred into a freeze dryer to be blast frozen down to -18C. The next phase of the freeze drying process is sublimation. This is where crystals of frozen ice in the food are sublimed (evaporated) to water vapour in a vacuum chamber. The result is a completely dry product that does not shrink during the drying process. When prepared for eating, the water quickly gets into the pores left by the ice crystals to give a juicy, tender food product.

After freeze drying, the product is then transferred into a large poly bags and stored in our large pantry store. For each production run the packing staff will take the recipe and retrieve all of the necessary ingredients from the store. The ingredients are then emptied into plastic tubs and from there the packers will measure out each ingredient to the nearest gram to ensure the flavour of each meal is the same. At present the packing of meals is completely manual, however there are plans to automate this during the factory upgrade.

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How much does the Back Country Cuisine ‘brand’ enter your recipe decisions?

The brand is a crucial part of our product development. Back Country Cuisines slogan is fast, nourishing food for the outdoor adventurer. We aim to use the freshest of ingredients with as little preservatives as possible. All of our meals are nutritionally balanced to ensure they contain enough nutrients to sustain an active person.

Back Country Cuisine seems to work pretty closely with some top suppliers. Can you talk a bit about those relationships in the recipe process?

Over the years we have managed to build really strong relationships with our customers both domestically and internationally. We are lucky enough to have Sea to Summit Pty Ltd as our distributor to all Australian commercial and retail sectors. We have worked with STS since 2009 and have gotten to know the team really well. They are a perfect fit for our brand and represent this really well throughout Australia. The company has a great rapport with customers as a result of their strong marketing and customer service and high level of expertise when it comes outdoor brands.

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Who sets the new recipe briefs? And which customers guide your efforts?

This is definitely a team effort. Some are customer driven while others are developed in house. Most commercial customers have very specific requirements so this is a case of following these quite strictly. For our own ranges we tend to pick up new ideas through customer polls, on our travels and ingredients and meals of what is ‘trending’ at the time.

What is the process & how many prototypes do you go through before a product goes into production?

Firstly we would take a recipe/meal, deconstruct it to work out the ingredients and composition and from there make a freeze dried prototype. Once we have the core freeze dried ingredients we would then send this away to our sauce blend supplier, which includes a team of chefs, to develop a flavour to match the meal. This involves a lot of back and forth to get the perfect flavour. Once we think we have nailed it then we bring in an unbiased sensory panel to test the prototype recipe. If the meal passes a certain criteria it is then ready to be added to our extensive range.

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Which flavoured meal are you most proud of?

I would have to say some of the Outdoor Gourmet meals are pretty impressive. The flavour of the Coq au vin  meal is amazing. The red wine sauce is super tasty, almost like eating a restaurant meal in the outdoors!

What’s next for you guys?

We are at full capacity in our current factory so plans are currently underway for a new build. With this move we are looking to expand our current overseas markets. The contract drying side of the business is also increasing which brings new innovative products. When it comes to freeze drying the possibilities really are endless.

 Top 3 tips for new hikers

Never rush your trips, make sure you enjoy your surroundings as opposed to high tailing it to the next hut. Pack light!! One change of clothes is enough when tramping. Never, ever, wear new shoes and use insoles.

Top 3 pieces of equipment you always take with you?

Back Country of course! A jet boil for boiling hot water for meals and coffees and a Sea to Summit sleeping mat for comfort.

Paddy Pallin and their customers are very environmentally aware. Can you tell us about what Back Country Cuisine is doing to help the environment?

BCC are highly committed to ensuring sustainability throughout the work environment. We aim to have no waste through the manufacturing process and keep electricity use to a minimum through steam cooking and water heating. We are currently also looking into recyclable packaging for all products.

Cheers Analise & thanks for your time.

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About The Author

admin

Some 80 years ago, a young bushwalker's dissatisfaction with the limited and heavy bushwalking equipment available prompted him to design and make his own. Before long, word spread, and Paddy Pallin's lightweight, functional designs were soon in demand among fellow bushwalkers. From its early days the company has concentrated on supplying bushwalkers, travellers and adventurers with the highest quality and most advanced products and knowledge. Since 1930 the company has grown to become Australia's leading supplier of specialist outdoor and travel gear. The company, still owned by the Pallin family, now has thirteen stores throughout Australia as well as online, mail order and corporate sales divisions. We are using our vast wealth of knowledge, and experience, to build an online community where we can share our stories, reviews and tech tips to help you research and plan your next adventure.

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