The coronavirus has made our lives smaller in many ways. We’re seeing friends less, and just travelling beyond our own suburb has become an adventure. But one benefit of this lifestyle shrinkage is that we’re buying local more often; what began as necessity, for many of us has stuck as a good habit well into the eased-restrictions era.
Pierre “Pepe” Issa, co-founder and chief butter maker of Pepe Saya thinks that it’s the perfect time to raise awareness about investing in food security and the benefits of buying local. “I think a lot of people – not just me, because I have a vested interest – but a lot of people have actually gone, ‘Maybe I can control more of my destiny with how I shop’”.
Pepe Saya makes the best butter in Sydney. We think so, and so do the city’s best restaurants and bakeries. But just like so many other business in Australia, Pepe Saya struggled during lockdown, especially because restaurants and markets were the company’s primary revenue stream.
Fortunately, thanks to Pepe Saya beefing up its online product range and fans showing up online and en masse, Sydney’s favourite butter has come through on the other side of lockdown looking okay.
Pepe Saya was lucky; it’s a well-established brand with a loyal following. But many of Australia’s best artisans are less well known. Issa and his wife, Pepe Saya CEO Melissa Altman, want to do their bit to showcase these lesser-known makers and create a platform for their work. So they’ve launched Aussie Artisan Week – seven days of spotlighting Australian producers, farmers and small businesses. Issa and Altman want to show consumers just how easy (not to mention tasty) it can be to buy local, if you have the information.
“We’ve been fighting against foreign products and trying to get Aussie products centre stage,” says Issa. “If we can bring more people’s attention to supporting their local producer, it would be such an exciting thing.
“You don’t have to buy my butter, buy butter from Victoria, from Tasmania – buy Australian at least. When you’re picking up your salt, you don’t have to buy French salt – we live on an island.”
The inaugural edition of Aussie Artisan Week will be a virtual one: tune in to Pepe Saya’s Instagram each day between August 17 and 23 to learn about some of Pepe Saya’s favourite businesses. Yarra Valley Caviar, Olssons Sea Salt and Block 11 Organics will all make appearances. Many more are yet to be announced. Pepe Saya is asking you to share your local purchases during the week with the hashtag #AussieArtisanWeek.
Once producers realise that consumers are committed to buying local, Issa says, it’ll be an upward trajectory from there, with producers expanding their ranges, and local food becoming easier to source. “Food is one of the basic necessities, and by [shopping local] we bolster our food industries – we make them stronger,” says Issa. “That means we’re gonna have so much more nice stuff. There’ll be so many more yummy things out on the market.”
Aussie Artisan Week is running August 17 to 23. Follow Pepe Saya on Instagram.