Interview - Mark Drill - Hilbilby Cultured Food
Making small-batch health tonics with love and care is the life passion and family business of Mark and Nicole Drill. Loaded with health benefits for the gut, every product has its own reason for being. We spoke with the Fire Chief himself, Mark and found out more about what makes Hilbilby Cultured Food so clever.
FFW: Who are the brains behind Hilbilby Cultured Food?
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD: Mark Drill, Founder, along with wife, Nicole Drill.
FFW: What inspired you to create your business?
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD: It started from making fermented goodies at home for our four boys of which two are on the Autism Spectrum [high functioning], in an attempt to help with the gut/brain link.
FFW: What are the different products you offer?
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD:
- Fire Tonic® - Original, Vegan & XXXtra Hot Master Tonic, a herbal Apple Cider Vinegar based infusion.
- Fire Sauce® - Raw, sustainable hot sauce made from the steeped roots, fruits and shoots of Fire Tonic®, a free-from, Paleo-friendly, refined sugar and additive free hot sauce.
- Fermented Mustard – Traditionally cultured mustard with beneficial bacteria.
- Living Red Wine Vinegar – Biodynamic/organic full-strength red wine vinegar, live with the MOTHER.
- Switchel - Traditional vinegar and ginger based drink … ours is in cans with bubbles.
- Switchel (concentrate) – Shrub Syrup – MIXER/ELIXIR coming soon.
FFW: Is everything handmade at Hilbilby?
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD: Yes, though we have a labelling machine to help with Fire Tonic stickers.
FFW: What are these Fire Tonics all about?
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD: Fire Tonic is a traditional folk remedy using raw, local apple cider vinegar with the Mother, along with local pure honey and 22 other roots, fruits and shoots. It’s a potent herbal infusion used to help boost the immune system, stimulate metabolism, aid in digestion, reduce inflammation, improve gut health and detoxify the body. NB: These are all historic uses, not health claims.
FFW: Is there a ‘maximum daily dose’?
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD: Yet to be defined, depends on the individual, Mark is yet to hit his limit 😊
FFW: Do the tonics have sugar in them?
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD: No … our Fire Tonic and Switchel are refined sugar FREE.
FFW: Who should be consuming Fire Tonics?
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD: Anyone who might benefit from a gut friendly immune booster and/or a metabolic kick starter.
FFW: What are your products ‘free from’?
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD: Refined sugar, gluten, nuts, wheat, dairy, artificial colour, artificial flavour, preservatives, man-made additives.
FFW: What are your brand’s health and quality virtues?
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD: They are all-natural, contain no nasties and are handmade with love and care.
FFW: What makes your Fire Sauce different from other hot sauces?
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD: Fire Sauce® is a happy accident. In attempting to reduce waste and be a sustainable business we started playing around with the steeped fruits, vegies and spices from our Fire Tonic®. We then discovered that we had a wonderfully zesty, zingy ACV-based RAW hot sauce on our hands that people love and that is truly unique.
FFW: Are your products vegan?
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD: We make vegan products including Fire Sauce®, Vegan Fire Tonic® and Red Wine Vinegar.
FFW: What’s the shelf life of your products and do they need to be refrigerated?
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD: Our Fire Tonic® and Red Wine Vinegar are shelf-stable for 5+ years. We’re are still testing Switchel, 6 - 9 months at the moment and hoping to get to 12 months. One year for Fire Sauce® (refrigerate after opening), two years for our Mustard (refrigerate after opening). The healthy lactic acid bacteria naturally preserve our products.
FFW: What are some of the benefits for retailers and foodservices businesses for offering your products to their customers?
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD: Fire Tonic® is a dedicated Visit Product, a return visit, habitual product. It offers high $ per bottle profit value of $6. Sales are always supported by samples/tastings.
FFW: What sorts of retailers are selling your products?
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD: Ideal for wholefood cafes, independent and small to medium grocers, allied health professionals (chiros, osteos, naturopaths, nutritionists) and progressive pharmacies.
FFW: And what kinds of foodservice businesses would you like to see offering the Hilbilby Cultured Food range to their customers?
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD: Fire Tonic®, Fire Sauce®, Mustard & Red Wine Vinegar are all available in bulk for kitchen service to support retail sales.
FFW: What would you say is Hilbilby’s personality?
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD: Our personality is playful and cheeky, confident enough in product to have fun with it.
FFW: What quality and customer service virtues does Hilbilby promote as part of the company’s high standards? [e.g. HACCP, ordering flexibility, small minimum orders, ability to produce large volume, only quality ingredients, award-winning, etc.]
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD: Our products are handmade with care in small batches in Torquay. We use the highest quality ingredients, sourced locally and organically as seasonally available. We offer fast turnaround times and FREE shipping in Australia for orders over $150. Our products are gut-friendly REAL food.
FFW: What’s your favourite Hilbilby product and how do you consume it?
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD: Fire Tonic® ORIGINAL Master Tonic – 15ml shot NEAT!
FFW: As a boutique food producer, are you aware of other small food producers that you admire and can tell us about?
HILBILBY CULTURED FOOD: We love Osun Sparkling, Calm & Stormy, Meru Miso, No Grainer Paleo Bread and Purabon.