Owned and operated by the husband-and-wife team of Brenden and Katrina Kehoe, Kehoe’s Kitchen is Australia’s largest and first Certified Organic producer of fermented vegetables, dips and spreads.
“Kehoe’s Kitchen actually started as a blog about gut health,” Katrina explains. “I was sharing recipes that I was making for my family, to improve health issues and food intolerances we had.
“Fermented vegetables are great for gut health, because they contain probiotics that help with your biome and your immune system, and digestive enzymes that help you get more nutrients out of the food on your plate. They’re the greatest food you can add to your diet on a daily basis.”
Katrina, a structural engineer by trade, designed her own equipment to streamline the fermentation process.
“The blog evolved into a website for dropshipping fermentation equipment,” she says, “and then we started a stall selling sauerkraut at the Northey Street Organic Farmers Market.”
Using plans drawn up by Katrina, the couple converted the bottom story of their Brisbane home into a commercial kitchen. In less than a year, the Kehoes had achieved ACO (Australian Certified Organic) certification, and were selling their sauerkraut and other fermented foods to over 300 retailers around Australia.
In the decade since then, they’ve quit their day jobs and designed and fitted out another three facilities to keep up with demand – both from buyers here in Australia and from overseas.
Having grown up in Queensland, Katrina says she can’t imagine basing her business anywhere else – especially because of the city’s unrivalled access to a pipeline of fresh, healthy ingredients.
“It’s a huge advantage for us to have the Lockyer Valley at our doorstep,” she says. “The valley is known as ‘Australia’s Salad Bowl’, because it’s one of the most fertile farming areas in the world. So we’ve got the greatest farms just an hour’s drive from us, delivering fresh and beautiful cabbages to us overnight for us to ferment the next day.”
Not only are their ingredients locally grown, but the Kehoes also source their packaging and supplies from Australian businesses. As well as helping them to reduce their carbon footprint, this has provided them with surety at a time when the global supply chain has experienced disruptions and delays.
Katrina says being based in Brisbane has also enabled the business to connect with the Brisbane Economic Development Agency (BEDA).
“We’ve been supported by BEDA through their Future Food Initiative,” she says, “which pairs companies like ours with industry-leading experts and mentors. Their mentors pointed out things we were able to improve about our marketing, our labels and our website, which was a great help.”
BEDA’s Future Food Initiative also fast tracks local food and beverage manufacturing businesses to connect with global buyers.
“They have regular ‘Meet the Buyer’ events, where buyers from overseas meet with producers here in Brisbane,” Katrina says. “We connected with a buyer in Singapore through these events that we’re now supplying to, and we’re also working with BEDA to launch our product into the Malaysian market.”
Katrina says Brisbane’s close proximity to the largest Asian markets has also been valuable to Kehoe Kitchens.
“The Port of Brisbane is much closer to Asia than the southern ports, which has been great for us,” she says. “It helps us save on our freight costs for our buyers, and it gives us an edge over the southern states. We’re already supplying to Singapore and Hong Kong, we’ve just started supplying to Indonesia, and we’re excited to be launching in Korea very soon.”
Katrina says the company will continue to expand into new markets, and is well-positioned to scale up its production.
“We’re always planning six months ahead with the farmers we work with,” she says, “because that’s what you have to do with cabbage, from seedling to harvest. So we’re always planning ahead and forecasting into the future, and we’re prepared for growth.
“With the size of our facility, we actually have the capacity to produce at least four times the amount of product we’re doing now. It’s just a matter of working with our farmers to grow more, and adding more staff as demand continues to increase – so it’s just as well Brisbane’s population is surging.”
Not only is the company’s existing product range continuing to gain traction, but Katrina says they’re constantly developing new products.
“We’re about to launch our first pickled product,” she says. “We’ve only ever produced fermented probiotic foods, but we’re bringing out a fresh, raw pickled product this year, which we expect to be very popular.
“And of course, we’re very excited about all of the opportunities that the next decade will bring in Brisbane in the lead-up to 2032. People from all over the world are coming to Brisbane – and we look forward to feeding them.”