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This November marks 25 years since our Founder, Owner and Managing Director, David DePaoli and his former partner, Jim Lyne, started Austchilli.

With parents who were farmers, David started his working life selling watermelons and pumpkins on the side of the road as a teenager. He then became a mechanic by trade but wanted more. David has spent more than 50 years farming a wide range of crops from cane to capsicums, beans and corn. However, he didn’t like the uncertainty of the ever-changing prices that the fresh produce markets dictated and felt there had to be another way than being a price taker. He believed he needed to move from farmer to an agribusiness delivering growth, profit and sustainability.

Celebrating 25 years of Austchilli logo

The trip that started it all

In 1995, David and Jim went on a research trip to the US & Mexico to learn about the world of chillies. Chillies were a big part of American food culture, but Australian consumers weren’t aware of chillies let alone them being a household staple. They saw this as an opportunity and came back to Australia with the idea to create aseptic chilli purees.

David and his then small team of five employees started growing chillies and Austchilli’s first product was a 22kg box of Red Cayenne Chill Puree. Their first customer was all of KFC in Malaysia & Singapore. They would use the chilli puree to create the sweet chilli sauces that they served with the chicken on the tables of every KFC outlet throughout Malaysia and Singapore.

Our first Australian customers

David’s first Australian based customer was Masterfoods, to whom he also sold the bulk chilli puree. Both of these customers are still with Austchilli today, 25 years later. David and his team treat their smallest customers with the same amount of respect as their biggest and believe that it has to be a good experience with a win-win outcome to build a respectful long term relationship.

Knowing the inconsistency of fresh produce pricing, David wanted to focus on value-added, shelf-stable products however money was tight. The banks didn’t think that chillies would take off in Australia, so he started selling fresh chillies as a way to fund the future development of his value-adding business. These days, Austchilli Group is the largest chilli producer in Australia supplying all major supermarkets with a wide range of fresh chillies, 52 weeks a year.

David always thinks outside the box. He prides himself on doing things differently and things that have never been done before. Whether it’s providing customers with new to world food products, uncovering new food trends, innovative farming practices or creating robotic machinery to deliver operational efficiencies.

It’s this way of thinking that has led Austchilli Group to now have more than 100 products ranging from 30gram tubs of Avocado smash, herb, vegetable & fruit puree and export to 10 countries around the world. They are a leading ingredients supplier within the food industry.

A vision of sustainability

Sustainability is a way of being for the Austchilli Group, from healthy soil management to innovation using bi-products. David has enormous respect for the environment and believes that what you put back into the soil and how you treat it, will reward you with high quality, healthy produce. The Austchilli Group agronomy team use these ‘old-time’ principles together with modern-day science and technology to constantly improve their growing practices to deliver nutrition-dense products which equal healthier people.

Today, The Austchilli Group is full of talented, passionate individuals. The business is a major employer in the Bundaberg region with more than 150 staff across agronomy and farming, operations, research and development, engineering, finance, marketing and sales.

Space food and beyond

Those who know David know that he’s always looking for the next opportunity. He likes to look forward, not back. So, what’s next for Austchilli Group, ask David and he says “Space food – delivering natural and healthy shelf-stable food solutions to colonies in space!” Well, perhaps the sky isn’t the limit after all.

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