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Discovering the Flavours and Functionality of the Wild Foods of Australia:

Discovering the Flavours and Functionality of the Wild Foods of Australia

An Interview with the Founder of Australian Functional Ingredients

What is Australian Functional Ingredients Pty Ltd

Based in Sydney, Australian Functional Ingredients (AFI) is a company dedicated to sourcing and supplying wild foods from the land down under. With a focus on three key market segments, including food service distributors, manufacturers and health-conscious consumers, AFI has established itself as a leader in the wild food industry.

From supplying ingredients to professional chefs in the food service industry to bulk quantities for manufacturers, AFI’s diversified market approach has helped the company weather economic downturns and natural disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are Wild Foods?

The fruits and vegetables of today are a far cry from their wild ancestors. Through selective breeding programs and other agricultural interventions, modern produce has been dramatically altered, resulting in a decline in flavour, fibre, vitamins, minerals and other important phytonutrients. They are also unhealthy sources of bad sugars (sucrose and fructose) and simple starches and bloated with water to be gargantuan in size but barely worth eating.

Processed and ultra-processed foods are even less nutritious.

In stark contrast, the Australian wild foods that AFI founder first selected as key ingredients and then commercialized together with a few colleagues who shared his passion, have sustained the World’s longest living culture. Wild foods far surpass the nutritional value of modern produce.

To appreciate the phytonutrients in wild foods, here are some of the classes of active components in them: 

Nutritionists, dieticians, symptom-care and even alternative care professionals are often quoted by an equally uninformed media who all continue to promote the idea of getting healthy on a subset of modern foods, ignoring the realities of what we have done to our produce.

The notion of two servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables daily may sound healthy, but it is a far cry from the ideal nutrition provided by wild foods. Additionally, Indigenous Australians relied on a ratio more like 10 fruits to 2 vegetables and had more than 10 times the number of different plant-based edibles than we have today.

Vic Cherikoff with Kakadu plums

The World’s highest fruit source of vitamin C

Who is the Driving Force Behind AFI

At the heart of AFI’s success is its Founder and Managing Director, Vic Cherikoff, a passionate pioneer of the wild food industry with over 40 years of experience. In this exclusive interview, he shares his love for both, the unique culinary virtues and the health advantages of these highly functional foods.

“My passion for wild foods has never wavered,” he says. “From analyzing the nutritional value to witnessing the incredible healing properties, I am constantly discovering new and exciting aspects to these ingredients.”

AFI also manufactures a natural antimicrobial product called Herbal-Active® based on culinary herb and spice essential oils made soluble in water using a plant bark from the Amazon Rainforest and then stripped onto organic acacia gum from sub-Saharan Africa.

Herbal-Active® won an Australian Food Industry Innovation Award but most of AFI’s demand for this functional flavour is in the USA.

With the antimicrobial and a range of other wild fruit preserves, herbs, mixed seasoning, and natural flavours, AFI is helping to bring the best of Australia’s wild foods to the world.

With decades of experience analyzing, using and promoting wild foods, Cherikoff has learned a few things along the way.

Some Business and Marketing Lessons Learned

One of the biggest surprises was the lack of understanding among professional chefs about the basics of flavours.

“I would often ask chefs who attended my half day, in-kitchen presentations on wild foods, their products and their uses,” he elaborates, “what are the basic 12 flavours in foods?”

“The ensuing silence amazed me,” he revealed. “Foods are the currency of cooking and I thought that this would be cooking 101. I rarely got more than 4 and even then with some confusion over acid, tart and sour. Once we know the basics, we need to know which flavours complement or contrast, enhance, mask or simply balance other components. There were even some real oddities when one fruit, a relative of the cashew but with a rich, deep purple flesh and a resinous pine flavour was found to react with copper and aluminium cookware unmasking an intensely bitter astringency. A little experimentation found that adding lemon juice would negate the unpleasant taste and led to the recommendation of using stainless steel cookware. This seemed to be mission critical to me as a food scientist. To stay shallow to only cook by copying methods and recipes from a few established world cuisines seems so limiting.”

Despite operating in a market growing with competition after the early years of enjoying a monopoly, the founder of AFI has persevered by staying ahead of the game and finding new and innovative ways to reach customers. He emphasizes the importance of entertaining and informing, rather than just trying to sell.

As he puts it, “If you have to educate, you’re not selling. That’s why it’s crucial to engage with your customers and let them discover the value in what you have to offer.”

Marketing Must Cover its Cost

He is also an author with 6 books (the UK’s King Charles has 2 of them in the Royal Library), numerous scientific publications, contributions to others’ works on the topic of wild foods and maintains several content rich websites.

AFI’s main company website at is a treasure trove of information. Landing pages, blogs in 4 categories, YouTube videos and a fledgling podcast are woven into a micronet of related sites and social media references. Cherikoff has been on-line since 1995 and the current company site has 4.6 million organic back-links.

In 2003, Cherikoff self-funded a 13-part cooking series, called Dining Downunder which screened in 48 countries, some several times. To embellish the series, he supported the shows with Australian cuisine promotional events in 5-Star hotels in many of those countries. The series included advertisers interested in the markets where the series was shown and this also offset some of the production costs.

Demonstrating to German chefs in Essen

If Running a Business Was Easy, Everyone Would Do It

One downside was that while the Australian Government offers financial support via grants and tax relief against the costs of building export markets, The company’s costs were more than covered by sponsorship from airlines and hotels and so international marketing was not an out-going cost but income-positive and ineligible for funding. For some export grants, the minimum company threshold commitment could not be reached to make the annual applications worth pursuing.

In spite of these challenges in market expansion for what was a small business, a network of distributors was built across Europe, in the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the USA.

Unfortunately, the Global Financial Crisis put an end to all the hard work back then and it took the better part of a decade to rekindle at least a proportion of the interest in Australian wild foods with the few distributors who survived the economic catastrophe.

A few ensuing years followed in Australia with natural disasters including droughts, bushfires, flooding and unparalleled storms of Biblical proportions. These events were all fuelled by the Climate Crisis and resulted in destroyed and failed harvests of foraged and even cultivated stocks of wild and near-wild fruits, herbs, spices and products made from them.

The need to rebuild supplies, find old and some new markets and other steps in starting over again to a degree, removed the shine from overseas expansion for AFI.

Also recognized, was that without in-market representation providing local support and maintenance and the financial commitment to cover their associated costs, the overseas opportunities could not be easily resurrected.

Surprisingly, as an industry pioneer, which is normally those people lying face down in the dirt with arrows in their back, AFI Founder has survived and is proud of the fact that the industry is now growing to be substantial. Additionally, the involvement of Indigenous Australians has always been a feature of Cherikoff’s operations, whether enlisted as suppliers or employed directly in the company.

“The concept of royalties from businesses based on wild foods and paid to Indigenous communities can never be fair unless we equally reward indigenes around the world for globally consumed foods and other resources which were traditionally once only theirs.” he notes. “However, we can and must facilitate opportunities for their involvement in appropriate segments of the industry, particularly as cultural disruption from invasion and resource theft has always characterised the ‘explorers and traders’ of yesteryear.”

We are now seeing Indigenous Australian enterprises in eco-tourism, food service, retail, media and food manufacturing. Cosmetic ranges and a nation-wide collection of distilled or brewed beverages with wild ingredients are also on offer.

Maintaining the Lead

In the habit of staying 5 or more years ahead of the pack, AFI has once again taken the initiative by shifting their focus to direct-to-consumer health and wellness products. With seed funding of AUD60,000 raised through a successful email campaign directed to subscribers of AFI’s websites, this project is poised for success.

The four health products offered by AFI are truly unique, taking advantage of the growing trend towards functional foods and leveraging wild foods for their exceptional nutritional benefits. These products offer a competitive edge in the health and wellness industry, setting AFI apart from conventional, synthetic and inorganic, supermarket supplements and ‘health’ foods by providing real value to consumers.

The term ‘functional food’ is not yet defined by the Australian government but the ability to use Food:Health relationships that are supported by academic research allows for associative benefits to be listed without making medical claims.

Freeze-dried or lyophilized wild foods are at the core of the concept and each formulation is thoroughly science-backed.

AFI has even become its own best customer using lyophilized food service ingredients for their impressive health-enhancing properties and selling B2C to maximize its return while also building a database for on-going promotions and product information flow.

A marketing focus on the greater purpose of getting healthy is key.

·        LIFE (Lyophilized Indigenous Food Essentials)™ – our flagship, phytonutrient treasure trove

·        Karuah Active Magnesium ™ – 250% more available Mg than from limestone and chalk pills

·        Karuah ChancaPlus™ – calcium cleanup – calculi appear to trigger diseases from cancer to CVD

·        Karuah Activated Turmeric™ – not just joints but anti-metaflammation – whole body systems

The combination of the above 4 products delivers youthful vitality, sustained energy, reduced carbohydrate cravings, enhanced satiety, boosted immunity, improved blood test results, organ and system support and so much more.

AFI recommends the 4-product bundle (promoted as The Holy Grail to Health) and taken daily, they might be considered as a protective safety-net from the many diseases of nutrition.

The LIFE Plan via the        

  Holy Grail to Health – 4 Simple Steps 

This then leads to an increase in healthspan and lifespan and AFI’s marketing asks, “What will you do, living disease-free with more years in your life and more LIFE in your years?”

Too often, companies compete on superficial benefits, such as price, quality, or service. But AFI’s marketing approach is different. Rather than focusing on the basic prerequisites of doing business, the company’s marketing message focuses on the ultimate reason for wanting to get healthier: to live disease-free, with more years in our lives and more LIFE in our years. This powerful message captures the relative value of AFI’s “true health” range and sets it apart from other products in the market.

This graphic describes the process of going deeper with why we need better health.

Mark Twain said it well: The two most important days of our life are the day we were born and the day we discovered the reason why.

Australian Functional Ingredients Pty Ltd provides the means to gain the healthspan and lifespan to find and embrace your life’s purpose. The rest is optional.

Read more on the falling nutritional value of modern foods:

Article and video on phytonutrients:

More on The Holy Grail to Health:

For the past years, Tatyana has worked as a sex blogger and a relationship advisor. She has been featured in magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue. Vice, Tatler, Vanity Fair, and many others. Since 2016, Tatyana has focused on sexology, attended various training courses, participated in international conferences and congresses. “I wish people would address sexual issues in a timely manner! Forget shyness, prejudice and feel free to see a sex doctor for help or advice!” Tanya enjoys pursuing her flare for creativity through modelling, graffiti art, astronomy, and technology.

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