I make a lot of sandwiches these days. One, my wife S love sandwiches. And two, they’re easy to throw together in the morning. (I actually make toasties, having purchased a toastie machine from Tang’s a few months back, but that’s not the point of this post.) I would say that we eat sandwiches (toasties) for brekkie at least four mornings out of seven. One of the most important elements, to me, in making a great sandwich is a great sauce (spread). And while I’d like to pretend I have the time to make my own from scratch, the truth is that I reach into the fridge and grab a jar or two. But since I’m almost always reaching for a jar of Roza’s Sauces, I know that my sandwich will turn out simply stunning.
Roza’s Sauces are sensational. And they are all gluten free, made with all natural ingredients and with no artificial preservatives. Every sauce, spread and dip that I have tasted from this small Australian family-owned company has been delicious.
I first came across Roza’s Sauces in Huber’s Butchery, which I believe is the only place you can buy them in Singapore. I grabbed a bottle of the Sweet Mustard with Apricots and Macadamia Nuts while the wife wanted to try their Coconut Chilli Mayonnaise. I used the former in some sandwiches and fell in love with the sweet, nutty, fruity and still tangy mustard. S decanted the mayo into a squeeze bottle and served it alongside a whole roasted suckling pig, which worked perfectly. Since then, we’ve been regularly buying and trying all of Roza’s Sauces. Roza’s has become, without a doubt, my favourite producer of mayos and mustards.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of heading down under to take part in the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival. As we had taken our 2 year old son with us, S and I decided to spend an additional day in Brisbane after the festival so that we could check out the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, which we thought he’d enjoy. When we were planning the trip, the lovely ladies in the Tourism Queensland office in Singapore (who helped arrange our Lone Pine visit) asked if there was anything else we wanted to see or anyone we wanted to meet in Brisbane. I think I surprised them when I responded immediately, saying the one person in Brisbane I was dying to meet was Jasmin Robertson, the 25 year old owner and CEO of Roza’s Sauces, a teeny-tiny artisanal sauce company that I’m pretty sure they hadn’t even heard of.
But, amazing women that they are, they arranged for me to drop by Jasmin’s brand new factory on a beautiful Monday morning.
Jasmin is charming, energetic and fashionable to boot. At first glance, she’s not the kind of person you’d imagine running an artisanal sauce company (I’d picture someone more like Masterchef Australia winner Julie Goodwin). But Jasmin didn’t start Roza’s Sauces. Her mother, Roza, did.
The company began, Jaz (as her friends call her) told me, back in the early 1990s. They were living along the road up one of the popular and scenic mountains in the Brisbane area. Roza decided it would fun to see if she could sell some of her homemade sauces to the people driving by.
Jaz told me about her first endeavours, “We’d sit at the end of the road under a big beach umbrella. It would be me… I was around 3 or 4 at the time… the dog and my mom. We’d put up homemade signs along the road. Mom would be so excited when she would sell seven jars in one day.”
Fast forward 22 years and Jaz now produces an average of 4000 items a week in order to meet the demands of her customers. It’s a shame, however, that Roza did not get a chance to witness the success of her daughter and the popularity of the sauces she created. Roza, sadly, passed away in 2001. Jasmin was 14 years old at the time.
In the years prior, Roza and her husband had built up a small loyal following in the Brisbane area. Fans of their sauces had introduced them to new customers and retailers, who were happy to sell the couple’s fresh and tasty products. They had also increased their popularity when they started to take part in the city’s well-attended weekend markets, especially the Jan Powers Farmers Markets.
After Roza passed away, Jasmin’s father ran the business single-handedly. He outsourced manufacturing and continued to supply existing customers. But he didn’t grow the business.
Jaz, meanwhile, had gone off to pursue a degree in business, after which she took on a job at PwC. Unsatisfied with her work, she went back to school to pursue an acting degree. Ironically, while she grew up helping mama make sensational sauces, Jaz admitted that when she was younger, she had no real interest in food.
Everything changed in 2007, when her father called her. “Dad said that he had an offer to buy the company from a 25 year old woman,” said Jaz. “He then told me that either I take over or he’s selling. I was 20 years old at the time. At first, the idea of taking over my parents’ company was the furthest thing from my mind, but the more I thought about, the more I kept asking myself,’Why would this 25 year old girl want it? What does she see in it?’ And the more I thought about it, the more I realised that there was a lot that could be done. That Roza’s Sauces had heaps of potential.”
So, at 20 years old, Jasmin Robertson took the plunge to becoming her own boss. She brought manufacturing back in-house. She fine-tuned her mother’s recipes, and while doing so, awakened within herself a love for food. And she essentially re-engineered the business single-handedly.
“I had no money to invest into the re-engineering. I wish I did. I had to do everything myself. If I could have hired consultants or staff, it would have been so much easier. On the other hand, I’ve done everything now. I know every aspect of this business. Which is invaluable in running it.”
When Jaz took over Roza’s Sauces, she had just two staff: a chef and a kitchen hand. They were producing approximately 1,200 items a week. Today, she has 13 dedicated and very happy employees making an average of 4,000 items a week. Her goal is to double production (again) by 2015. And while ambitious, I think she can do it.
Until last year, the majority of her product sold only in Queensland and through a few outlets in Victoria. But after attending a trade fair in September, she suddenly found herself fulfilling orders in New South Wales, Western Australia and Singapore. Victoria’s distribution has likewise increased. Roza’s Sauces can now be found in over 70 retail points within that territory. One coup that Jaz is very proud of is being accepted by David Jones, Australia’s oldest and most trusted department store brand.
Roza’s Sauces produces over 38 varieties of sauces, mayos, pestos, mustards and dips. As mentioned, I’ve loved everything I have tasted. My favourites from these include the Sweet Mustard with Apricots and Macadamia Nut, the Wasabi Sichuan Mayonnaise, the Basil Mustard (which is half pesto sauce and half mustard), the Hollandaise, and the Sundried Tomato Wholegrain Mustard. And while Roza had created 42 recipes for the company, Jaz is hard at work creating new concoctions. The Wasabi Sichuan Mayonnaise was one of her own original sauces. And I had the pleasure, when visiting, of sampling a truffle mayo that is still in development, but which I adored.
Having had a chance to meet Jaz and hear her story in person, I am now an even bigger fan of Roza’s Sauces. Not only are the products outstanding, but the young woman behind the brand is the kind of person you want to rally behind and cheer for. Given her current success, I had to ask her if she’d ever consider selling her family’s company. She told me, “You know, it’s a nice idea, of selling it one day. It’s nice to keep something like that in mind as a light at the end of the tunnel. But to be honest, the more involved I am, the more attached I’ve become.”