How much do you love tomato sauce? Do you squirt it on a sausage, pop it on a pie or save it for your sav?

Most Aussies see tomato sauce – or “dead horse” - as a food group all of its own, perched at the very top of a food pyramid composed of meat pies, sausage rolls, lamingtons and pavlova.

In this country it’s a cultural symbol to rival thongs (the footwear, not the undies), Vegemite, and Iced VoVos.

In The Castle, the tomato sauce takes takes pride of place on the kitchen table (“What do you call this, darl?”), in Puberty Blues the surfie chicks guard their boyfriends’ pies ‘n sauce while they’re surfing, and in Looking for Alibrandi, families come together once a year for a sauce-making celebration.

And so the recent news that one of Australia’s great tomato sauce brands, Rosella, has gone into receivership is nothing short of a national tragedy.

(In a sign of fine industrial mateship, on the same day 100 pie workers from Sargent’s in Sydney also walked off the job.)

We’re all left wondering how a company that has produced one of the great symbols of Aussie culture since 1895 could go under.

After all, the company boasted earlier this year that it sells more than 2.6 million litres of the red stuff annually - enough to make a meal of 160 million meat pies or fill an Olympic swimming pool.

So what’s gone wrong? I rang the receivers, but the Ferrier Hodgson spokesman would only reveal that it’s “too early to say”.

Searching for an answer, I looked in my fridge. One Aldi-brand bottle of tomato sauce. One Dick Smith OzESauce.

No Rosella. Perhaps that’s the problem.

I found further insights in my local Coles. The shelf space was dominated by Heinz and Masterfoods.

Rosella just doesn’t seem to be in the same league as these big boys anymore.

At this stage it’s too early to say what has caused the company to go under. It could be poor sales.

It could be the lack of viability of Australian-made food products, given our refusal to pay school-age children $5 a month to produce our goods.

Or Rosella could be an innocent casualty of its parent company collapse.

Either way, it goes to show how vulnerable even iconic Australian brands are these days.

It’s a sign of the times that in February Heinz announced it was moving its tomato sauce factory offshore due to rising labour costs.

At that time Rosella crowed that it was celebrating “more than 100 years of sauce making … and it’s still going strong”. Well, not for long.

Tomato growers are having the same problems. Except for Dick Smiths, not one brand in Coles was made in Australia with all Australian tomatoes.

Interestingly, Masterfoods boasted its sauce was made with “100% Australian tomatoes”, but the small print on the back revealed it was made from “local and imported ingredients”.

It goes to show that Australian brands can’t survive on nostalgia alone: they need people to buy them.

We’d like to think Rosella wouldn’t be the same if it was produced overseas, but of course few people take the time to read the fine print on the back of the label.

So as we wait for the future of this great Australian company to be secured (fingers crossed), think about your favourite tomato sauce moment.

Mine goes back to my school days, when we would gently lift the top off a meat pie, squirt sauce inside, and then replace the flaky little pastry lid.

We’d then devour our pie, sitting with a large round metal garbage bin between our knees to catch the overflow – a river of squelching, steaming hot sauce and beef (of course, I use the latter term loosely).

This was in the days before the hygienic single-serve plastic pouches when you’d have no choice but to stick the communal mould-encrusted sauce spout deep into your pie and give it a good long squeeze.

It was a deeply satisfying feeling as the pie gently swelled as it filled with sauce.

You never knew what was in a pie, but when it came to the tomato sauce, you knew you couldn’t go wrong.

Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEDT.

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63 comments

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    • Bill says:

      04:53am | 05/12/12

      Fair suck of the sauce bottle!!!

    • Mouse says:

      03:01pm | 05/12/12

      Sorry Bill, that’s one’s already been taken!! lol :o)

    • acotrel says:

      05:42am | 05/12/12

      Our supermarkets are simply exploiting the better aspects of the free market while screwing local producers and other retail businesses. I’ve found three independents in our town where I buy top quality meat , vegetables and bread, and petrol . And I am avoiding poker machines.

    • Martin says:

      12:31pm | 05/12/12

      @acotrel

      An admirable effort and all very well for your situation, but what if you live in an area where all you have is the Woolies/Coles monopoly, or you simply can’t afford to pay more for local and/or independant produce?

      I have the same problem with Dick Smith. I admire his passion, enthusiasm and desire to turn the tide, but many aussies don’t have the luxury of choice when every cent counts.

      Having said that, the wife and I redoubled our efforts last year and turned a run-down veggie-patch into a winner. Haven’t had to purchase lettuce, radish, tomatoes, spinach, cucumbers, beetroot or spring onions for months now. With those pennies saved, we can afford to splurge on local produce.

    • AFR says:

      03:11pm | 05/12/12

      Martin - you see those shops with the meat in the window and the guy in a stripey apron and the knives? It’s called a butcher, and chances are he is selling better quality meat, cheaper than Colworths. Walk further down your main street and follow the fresh bread smell, and you will find a baker selling bread fresher cheaper than the supermarket. Keep applying this logic to fruit and veg and a lot of other things.

      Not everyone has independents or Aldis convenient for the remainder of the groceries, but if you live in a community big enough to have a Coles or Woolworths, there will be a bunch of independent businesses (as mentioned above) selling much better produce.

      People shop at the big two because they are sucked in by advertising, and are too lazy to go to more than one shop.

    • gobsmack says:

      06:37am | 05/12/12

      An “icon”.

      Big deal.  I would wager that most people wouldn’t be able to name the brand of the tomato sauce they last used.  It’s just tomato sauce.

      People started realising years ago that things like Vegemite and Kraft cheese were crap.  I would eat good tasting food over “iconic” food any day.

      As an aside, there used to be a Rosella factory in inner Melbourne close to a rail line.  You knew when you were passing it by the god awful smell.

    • TimB says:

      06:59am | 05/12/12

      ‘I would wager that most people wouldn’t be able to name the brand of the tomato sauce they last used’

      That would be Heinz for me wink

      But honestly, I can’t remember the last time I used Rosella tomato sauce, nor indeed if I ever used it. You pretty much nailed it with the whole ‘sauce is sauce’ attitude.

      Unless it’s that reduced salt Fountain sauce my grandmother uses. That stuff sucks.

    • Tubesteak says:

      07:13am | 05/12/12

      I have Masterfoods. I’m not loyal to any brand and will buy Heinz or Fountain. Mainly it’s about price (but not home brand types) and if they come in those squeeze bottle types so that you don’t have to do the shake tap jiggle scrape with the bottle

      How dare you say something bad about Vegemite. Vegemite rules!

    • VVS says:

      07:50am | 05/12/12

      Unless one of the others is on special, it’s Heinz Big Red all the way, baby!

    • Christian Real says:

      08:04am | 05/12/12

      Tubesteak
      I agree with you, vegemite does rule

    • Achmed says:

      08:14am | 05/12/12

      Calling vegemite “crap”.  How unAustralian!!!  Bloody immigrants

      The Govt should buy the company back and have it manufactured in its country of ‘birth’.

    • Horthy says:

      08:45am | 05/12/12

      Masterfoods are owned by Mars.

    • Pete from Sydney says:

      08:46am | 05/12/12

      White Crow, the king of tomato sauce….accept no substitutes

    • Rose says:

      09:20am | 05/12/12

      Always Rosella, I never buy anything else….ever!!!

    • Kika says:

      09:23am | 05/12/12

      I can’t even remember the last time I had tomato sauce…

    • Chris L says:

      11:09am | 05/12/12

      You take back what you said about Vegemite!!!!!

    • gobsmack says:

      11:44am | 05/12/12

      Vegimite is okay if you have a hangover.

      The various toxins in the body seem to adhere to the thick tarry stuff.

    • Martin says:

      12:36pm | 05/12/12

      Vegemite makes great seasoning (think soy sauce) but other than that, you can shove it and the bread it was spread onto up your clacker (yes, I appreciate the symbolism of shoving vegemite up your arse). Maybe my tastebuds have changed with age, but I don’t remember it being quite so salty as a kid.

    • Tubesteak says:

      12:54pm | 05/12/12

      gobsmack
      I think Vegemite is a beer leftover. Sort of. Fits with the hangover thing. I will have Vefemite just about any time though

      Martin
      I’ll stick Vegemite and the bread it’s spread upon into my mouth

    • Baloo says:

      03:39pm | 05/12/12

      All immigrants should have to eat Vegemite on bread upon arrival, any hesitation or dislike of eating said snack shall result in immediate deportation.

      Boat people problem solved.

    • JoniM says:

      04:02pm | 05/12/12

      @ gobsmack

      “I would wager that most people wouldn’t be able to name the brand of the tomato sauce they last used.  It’s just tomato sauce.
      People started realising years ago that things like Vegemite and Kraft cheese were crap. “

      What tripe !

      True connoisseurs of tomato sauce only use Fountain.
      And you should never, ever dare knock one of nature’s vital food groups in Vegemite !

    • Super D says:

      06:49am | 05/12/12

      Heinz makes better sauce. Perhaps its the sweat of Aussie workers that makes Rosella taste like crap in any case as a result of the Rosella collapse I reckon not a single pie will go unsauced.

    • Nathan Explosion says:

      11:23am | 05/12/12

      Agree. Much prefer the tomato ketchup. It’s thicker and richer and doesn’t slide off your sausage in bread.

    • mattkas says:

      03:44pm | 05/12/12

      Try Outback Spirit tomato sauce. Luscious, real Australian sauce. I’ve been won over and you probably would be too.

    • gobsmack says:

      06:58am | 05/12/12

      We should be celebrating the fact that one of the main producers of this sickly sweet concoction, the main purpose of which was to provide some relief to the unrelentingly bland nature of Anglo/Celtic “cuisine”, has finally kicked the bucket.

    • AdamC says:

      09:51am | 05/12/12

      I won my boyfriend over with a home-cooked meal of Anglo/Celtic Aussie ‘cuisine’. It’s not all bad.

      I suspect Rosella hit the skids because its owner lacked sufficient capital and resources to properly develop and market the brand. Rosella to me is really an obscure, somewhat ‘old hat’ brand.

    • gobsmack says:

      10:39am | 05/12/12

      Hopefully you didn’t spare the sauce.

    • AdamC says:

      11:58am | 05/12/12

      Indeed. One thing celebrity knifee Kevin Rudd and I can agree on:

      “Fair shake of the sauce bottle, mate.”

      You don’t make friends by scrimping on the sauce.

    • Levi says:

      01:20pm | 05/12/12

      Maybe you can go back to wherever it is you came from then gobsmack?

      Roast pork and Yorkshire pudding > any other ethnic food in existence.

    • gobsmack says:

      03:21pm | 05/12/12

      @Levi

      I was born in England and my mother is Irish.

      There’s no going back!!

      Mind you, AdamC’s boyfriend was obviously impressed by his meat and potatoes, so I guess it’s a matter of individual taste.

    • Mahhrat says:

      07:08am | 05/12/12

      Australia’s future is not in manufacturing, any more than it’s in making iron shoes for horses and bands for wagon wheels.

      We keep trying to be a first-world country with a third and second-world economic base.

      We have to catch up.

    • andrew says:

      10:05am | 05/12/12

      I used to work for a large multinational automotive parts manufacturing company about 10-12 year ago. Despite the majority of employees being on minimum wage or close to it, they still could not compete with products being made in China and India, and the plant closed down about a year after I left to go to Uni for a career change. Australian manufacturing being unprofitable is not a new phenomenon, and I can’t see any way to save it.

    • Achmed says:

      07:13am | 05/12/12

      I’m sure it will be the fault of Gillard or the carbon tax or the AWU that Rosella has gone into recievership.

      God forbid that it is just plain and simply lack of sales or poor decisions by the CEO and Board.  Perhaps our erstwhile journo like Jones and Bolt could “investigate” and see if there’s a slush fund.  What’s that you say?  The CEO and Board donate to the Liberals. well that cuts Jones and Bolt out of any investigative journalism on this

      I’m sure Abbott and Bishop can waste a week of QT on this rather than debate policy

    • Nilbog says:

      07:53am | 05/12/12

      Nice rant, bro.

    • Christian Real says:

      08:01am | 05/12/12

      Achmed
      I agree with you simply because the Liberals that frequent these blogs blame the Gillard Government for anything and everything.
      Tony Abbott will no doubt attempt to associate Gillard with Rosella going pear shape and he will demand a Royal commission to investigate if there are any links to Gillard or any of her Government.

    • Borderer says:

      08:46am | 05/12/12

      Achmed,
      You were the first to mention it, well done champ…. own goal….

    • ronny jonny says:

      08:56am | 05/12/12

      @Christian Real, I wonder if you could explain how your Aboriginal Ancestors might feel about this?

    • Borderer says:

      09:50am | 05/12/12

      @Christian Real
      I agree with you simply because the Liberals that frequent these blogs blame the Gillard Government for anything and everything.

      It’s funny because it’s just you guys….

    • tez says:

      10:49am | 05/12/12

      No Borderer;  Joan already did a job on It being the fault of the carbon tax yesterday.

    • Borderer says:

      11:18am | 05/12/12

      tez
      Not on this thread, just Achmed and Christian Real attempting to say the Liberal commentators are blaming the CT and it’s just them attempting to blame the Liberal commentators for not blaming the carbon tax, much akin to watching a md person arguing with a lamp post.

    • Chris L says:

      12:55pm | 05/12/12

      “just Achmed and Christian Real”...

      .... and Jaqui.

    • Peter says:

      07:13am | 05/12/12

      When you have a society that’s lost any sense of social responsibility, where everybody is trying to sell each other down the river, price will always win.

      Rosella reminds me of the good old days but they are long gone.

    • RuralBrain says:

      07:22am | 05/12/12

      In my family where once most hot food was liberally covered with Rosella tomato sauce,  it is now swamped with Ketchup. Go figure!

    • just jus in grafton says:

      09:42am | 05/12/12

      RB
      You haven’t watched one episode of masterchef, have you?
      smile

    • Gregg says:

      07:26am | 05/12/12

      ” It could be the lack of viability of Australian-made food products, given our refusal to pay school-age children $5 a month to produce our goods.

      Or Rosella could be an innocent casualty of its parent company collapse.

      Either way, it goes to show how vulnerable even iconic Australian brands are these days.

      It’s a sign of the times that in February Heinz announced it was moving its tomato sauce factory offshore due to rising labour costs. “

      Yep Rosie, all ain’t been so well in the past, now and likely for the future for all local manufacturing courtesy of the WTO level playing field principles which are decidedly far from level.
      All those cheap and child labour countries producing tomato sauce probably do not even use it and will hardly have heard of a meat pie, sausage roll or hotdog.

      You can always make your own from fresh tomatoes and even perhaps grow the tomatoes too and there will be a huge market there to make some money, taking your produce to weekend markets at places like Benalla for instance but only if the price is right!

    • AFR says:

      07:27am | 05/12/12

      Meh, those of us who grew up in the Riverina knows there is only one true tomato sauce - POPS. Actually tastes like tomato.

    • Taxpayer says:

      08:37am | 05/12/12

      We use Three333Threes Aussie brand. We are very true blue and will always support my country and its producers.But than again new generation does not give a stuff but the reads of it.
      Aussie Aussie Aussie

    • Rebecca says:

      09:36am | 05/12/12

      I’m not going to support Aussie brands if it means my grocery bill will be so high that I can’t afford to pay my rent.
      Brand name products are usually double or sometimes triple the cost of home brand or Aldi products, and those of us working hard for minimum wage don’t have $300 a week to spend on food.

      If that makes me unpatriotic, then so be it.

    • Martin says:

      12:45pm | 05/12/12

      @Taxpayer

      Admirable sentiment, but Rebecca has summed it up perfectly. Many aussies simply don’t have the luxury of choice due to location or circumstance. Survival trumps patriotism when every cent counts.

    • Babs of Sydney says:

      08:42am | 05/12/12

      Heinz Ketchup is my choice however, I do use Rosella tomato soup as my base when making spaghetti sauce so I will miss that product.

    • Jaqui says:

      10:13am | 05/12/12

      And another one down and another one down, thanks to Gillard and this incompetent Laobr government who wont rest until every last Australian manufacturer is taken down.

    • Chris L says:

      11:17am | 05/12/12

      Maybe time to count how many companies went out of business during the Howard years. I didn’t realise we could blame the PM for such things.

    • enough says:

      12:11pm | 05/12/12

      In the Howard years if you had a brother who was PM, everything was sweet.
      Take the money and run

    • Christian Real says:

      12:19pm | 05/12/12

      One that comes to mind was the National textile factory at Rutherford near Maitland New South Wales that went belly up under the management of Stan Howard, whose brother John Howard,then Prime Minister bailed him out.
      A question that always has remained unanswered would John Howard have bailed the National Textiles factory out if his brother had not been in charge?

    • Jaqui says:

      02:14pm | 05/12/12

      @Chris L = Christian Real & enough: Oh you guys, you so live in the past. How many years ago was that?

    • Christian Real says:

      02:58pm | 05/12/12

      Jaqui
      Before you accuse us of living in the past take a look at yourself and the Liberal mob that you support that was in the last week of Parliament trying to dig up dirt with their smear campaign against the Prime Minister over something that is alleged to have happened 20 years
      ago.
      This happened some 12 years ago so its a bit more recent than your Liberal mob blatantly attempting to dig up relics from the past which don’t exist and never has existed.

    • Christian Real says:

      10:55am | 05/12/12

      Jaqui
      It was only a matter of time before one of you Liberal commentors had the blatant audacity to blame Gillard and the Labor Government for the demise of Rosella,obviously you Liberal people cannot focus outside the square that you have all built around your hatred for Gillard and you all fail to see the big picture.
      The only incompetent person Jaqui is you and your Liberal friends that continue to blame Gillard and Labor for everything even if it isn’t their fault.
      It is about time that you and others got a real life for a change then maybe you would see what is happening around you instead of automatically blaming Gillard and labor for everything.

    • Jaqui says:

      02:12pm | 05/12/12

      But Christian, you and your Labor cohorts blame Tony Abbott for everything, you don’t like your own medicine?
      Don’t you remember, the emergency levels that interest rates were reduced to are Tony Abbotts fault.

      There are many companies going to the wall in retail because of the incompetence of this government, now that is Real Christian, like it or not.
      How many more have to fail at the hands of this incompetent government Christian?

    • Stan says:

      11:00am | 05/12/12

      Halal tomato sauce .....problem fixed.

    • Mary says:

      12:01pm | 05/12/12

      I buy Beerenberg a South Australian owned and grown local brand.
      I try to look for local foods where possible.
      I know they are more expensive - but I’m willing to pay to keep Aussies employed

    • Robert S McCormick says:

      01:11pm | 05/12/12

      Sure, Sauce is Sauce but, if you can, cast your mind back just a few years. Rosella was the Top Selling Tomato Sauce in Australia followed by Heinz, Fountain & Eta (These two last were once Australian Owned but no more) The our supermarkets, particularly Woolworths & later, to their everlasting shame, by Coles started making money out of selling space in their stores to manufacturers of just about everything.
      The Multi-Nationals, Heinz, Mars Masterfoods, Kelloggs, Cambells, Cerebos, Reckit Benkisker jumped at the chance. They forked out millions to try & monopolise sales.
      Local companies, if not taken over by the multi-nationals, did not stand a chance.
      Hence Rosella joins the long list of Australian Owned companies to bight the dirt.
      Then, just to rub salt into the wounds the multi-nationals stopped manufacturing their products here and took them off-shore thereby supporting the economies of other countries and To Hell with Australia.
      Heinz is probably one of the biggest offenders & we should chase them out of Australia for practically everything bearing the Heinz Label is made off-shore & that includes their Tomato Sauce & Ketchup. They didn’t mind throwing 100s of Australians out of work when they closed up their factories here.
      Doubtless some bloody multi-national will come in & pick up the Rosella Brand for a few cents and start making a mint out of it. All the contents will, of course, come from China, Africa, India with the labels stating ” Packed in Australia from Imported (or Local & Imported) Ingredients”. Practically all the frozen vegetables bear the words “Made in New Zealand from Local & Imported Ingredients” & it has been revealed that the only “local” ingredient is the plastic bag those vegetables from China are packed in!

    • Aussie Wazza says:

      01:34pm | 05/12/12

      No Rebecca, you’re not un-Australian. Just a victim like the rest of us.

      Rosella is not the first to fail and certainly wont be the last.

      Forget the political parties; soon we will be completely ruled over by Coles and Woolworths.

      Simple logic dictates that subject to quality and quantity we should buy the cheapest. Our wallets agree.

      The stratagy of these two is blatant and by our buying practices we are digging the graves of our children and grand children.

      HOW IT WORKS.

      1/ Tell the manufacturer you will only pay a certain price maximum or take their product off the shelf.

      2/ Demand that same product be supplied under your house label.

      3/ Place both products side by side. Manufacturer price loaded/ house brand reduced.

      Same product cost price $1.25. Fair retail price = $2.00 but Manufacturer brand $3.00 & House label $1.50

      Same product / same pack / same size / DIFFERENT LABEL.

      4/
      Shoppers move across to house label, so manufacturer label dissappears.

      5/  No competition for House label so :-

                                                a/ Up goes the price
                                                b/ Store buy cheaper from overseas.

      More intrigue than this simple answer, but thats it in a nutshell.

      What can we do?

      ‘When rape’s inevitable, relax and enjoy it.’

      It has gone too far to stop. Like a runaway train.

      Those that have the power don’t give a stuff.

    • glenda mccallum says:

      06:38pm | 05/12/12

      Another Australian manuafacturing business about to go to the wall as well as leaving those lower down the chain without a market for their product. Once we close down our industry, produce nothing, import everything, we lose our skill base, our independence and what actually are those who are shed from the jobs meant to do. As a taxpayer I would rather have an industry subsidised (as do the Chinese, Japanese, Indians, ECU) and keep it operating and people employed with self worht rather that have them on the dole funded by overseas borrowings!.Neither government has the balls to stand up and protect australians industray and assets on the “uneven playing field” of world ommerce..The government has no idea of national interest and looking after Australia first…

 

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