We chatted with Julie Merlet about her company NATIF which sells Australian native superfoods, fruits, herbs and spices.
Describe NATIF in a few words
NATIF – Australian Native Foods
What motivated you to start NATIF?
Travelling the outback and connecting with nature, learning about the Australian Indigenous culture and how they survived using native foods for over 65,ooo years. Studying Naturopathy and Nutritional Medicine and living the Naturopathic lifestyle on a herb farm 20 years ago where I grew some native foods.
What do you love about Australian native superfoods?
I love that they are Australian, meant for Australians. I love their health benefits, their flavours and aromas which are unique to our local environment. I love being part of the Australian Native Food movement, talking to farmers and helping the industry grow.
I love that it has connected me to Indigenous people and that I have learnt so much about their history, their culture and their food. I love that I can do more than just sell foods. Food is the vehicle in which I can support Indigenous businesses, purchase a product from them – which helps create employment and work on projects which can give back to communities.
I love supporting Australian Native Food farmers too as they have been growing this food through the hard times and put in all the hard work.
What’s your favourite way of using your products?
I love how easy they are to use. You use them just like any other fruit, herb or spice. If you cook Moroccan, Indian, Asian or European, you use herbs and spices from those countries and that differentiates the cuisine and culture. Well, it’s the same for native herbs and spices, this is the flavour of Australia. Just add them to food as you would any other herb or spice. I use them every day in a variety of dishes. For example, I use Kakadu Plum in smoothies, on breakfast cereal, in salads or healthy desserts. I make Wattleseed Lattes and then I reuse the grains back into health balls or add it to baking flours or nut meals.
What’s your most popular selling product?
Kakadu Plum and Wattleseed. But to be honest they all sell almost equally. I have 16 different native foods and its growing. Chefs want certain foods for their restaurants and product developers want them for a variety of flavours and aromas and people, in general, want to try them in their home cooking.
Best piece of nutritional advice?
Use Kakadu Plum for its health benefits. It has the highest Vitamin C of any known food. However, don’t cook with it as you don’t want to destroy its antioxidants and Vitamin C qualities. Kakadu Plum is great for the immune system, energy metabolism, bone and skin health. You can cook with the rest of the NATIF products. Always use Superfoods as part of a healthy balanced diet.
What’s been your proudest moment?
I was honoured that Moral Fairground asked me to do a talk on native foods beside two Indigenous Businesses as part of NAIDOC week.
I have had many proud moments (I know it when I get body tingles!) especially when Indigenous people call me to ask me for native foods to use for their businesses.
Tell us about the most important business lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Don’t multitask too much, it’s too stressful.
Have a good business plan.
Organise your days the day ahead and prioritise.
Don’t print too many labels with the date on them!
If you are passionate and believe in something you can do it. I have had to learn the hard way and navigate an industry without much help. When times are tough I take a small step back and get on with it again.
Can you tell us how your company gives back to the community?
NATIF gives back to Indigenous communities by purchasing product in the supply chain from wild harvesters and growers. This, in turn, creates jobs in remote areas and a sense of wellbeing. NATIF donates to the Children’s Ground and attends some of their activities. NATIF is a friend of the Kindred Spirits Foundation where we have Indigenous people at heart for the future of the Native Food Industry.
In addition, NATIF sells at Farmers Markets so that information on native foods can be spread throughout our local community to help promote the industry.
NATIF provide food at cost price or on consignment to small Indigenous businesses wanting to use native foods for their start-up businesses around Australia and also supports Indigenous businesses by sharing their posts on NATIF social media. NATIF rounds up food for research and provides helpful information when needed. NATIF supports Indigenous training programmes as part of our Native foods tour or when supplying businesses that use native foods which are linked to helping communities. NATIF collaborates within the Industry to help it grow and connects potential native food growers to the right Industry people.
NATIF acknowledges Indigenous elders past and present who have cared for this land for thousands of years and respects the Indigenous guidelines when using native foods in business as set out in research documents with Community elders.
Who or what inspires you?
My deep connection to nature and Indigenous people inspire me. I am inspired by the latest research on native foods and the interest it creates when people awaken to the ‘bigger picture’ surrounding native foods for the environment, biodiversity, the health benefits and opportunities it offers all of Australians. I am inspired by health and wellness naturally.
Thank you to Julie Merlet from NATIF for taking the time to talk to us.
Head to the NATIF website to purchase Australian native superfoods, fruits, herbs and spices.
NATIF stock a great range of products including 100% Pure, Premium Australian Native superfood fruit powders like Kakadu Plum, Davidson Plum and Desert Lime. Natif stock Australian Native herbs and spices like Peppermint Gum, River Mint, Strawberry Gum, Lemon, Cinnamon and Aniseed Myrtle, Mountain Pepper and Pepper Berries, Quandongs, Wattleseed, Saltbush, Sea Parsley, Bush Tomato, Riberry and more.