Crunch clinches prize
A COMBINATION of flavour and crunch has helped Tasmanian hazelnut growers Mick and Christine Delphin win a national food award.
The couple, who run Hazelbrae Hazelnuts near Hagley, were up against food producers from around the country and took home the Champion Australian Product award at this year’s Australian Food Awards.
Their roasted hazelnuts, which also won champion in the produce section, beat more than 1290 entries nationwide.
Mrs Delphin said they were shocked but thrilled to have won such a major competition.
“We actually couldn’t believe it to start with,” she said.
“We were thrilled when we won the champion produce award but then to go on and win what they called the biggest one was fantastic.”
Judging was through a blind tasting and it was superior flavour that earned Hazelbrae Hazelnuts the award.
“One of the main reasons we bought the farm in the first place was because we could taste how good the nuts were,” Mrs Delphin said.
“To have that recognition, from people who don’t love the farm like we do and who tasted the nuts in a blind tasting, it’s fantastic.”
The Hazelbrae raw nuts also earned a gold medal in the awards.
This year the Delphins produced about 15 tonnes of hazelnuts on the farm and about 19 tonnes all up, including their partner growers.
Over the next few years, as the trees on the farm reach full production, they could be producing about 50 tonnes a year.
“At the moment we’re selling everything that we’re growing and knocking back customers,” Mrs Delphin said.
“We have quite a few smaller customers and there are some quite large ones that would like our nuts but we just can’t supply them at the moment.”
Each week the couple also sell their products at the Launceston Harvest Market and every second week at the Farmgate Market in Hobart.
“If we ever miss a market in Launceston we have people coming up saying they were panicking because they thought they were going to run out,” Mrs Delphin said.
“A lot of people that taste our nuts say they can never go back to buying supermarket ones.
“The loyalty of our customers is amazing.”
The couple also established an on-farm cafe a few years ago, which is now leased and run by chef Nathan Johnston.
Mrs Delphin said this gave them more time to concentrate on the nut-growing side of the operation.
Currently about 80 per cent of their nuts are sold in Tasmania and the rest interstate.
As their production increases, Mrs Delphin said there was the potential to sell into some export markets, including China.
“We’ll need to be careful which markets we go into because we want to keep it as a premium product,’ she said.
“There’s no way we can compete on price with the imported nuts but really, it’s a totally different product and that’s what a lot of our customers have found.”
Mrs Delphin said most people enjoyed the nuts either roasted or coated in chocolate.
❝ There’s no way we can compete on price with the imported nuts but really, it’s a different product ... — Christine Delphin
CRACKING TEAM: Award-winning hazelnut growers Mark and Christie Delphin, of Hazelbrae farm at Hagley.