As Kurrajong Kitchen’s Karen Lebsanft previously told My Business, her husband-and-wife operation evolved in the late 1990s from the lavosh they made and sold in their small restaurant.
But in the early 2000s, their business faced potential annihilation as a corporate giant attempted to muscle in on their flagship product.
“By 2004, we’re starting to say, ‘Okay, we’re talking to our consumers’, often through snail mail still. We could see that our consumer, very much by the feedback we got, who we were talking to at trade shows, consumer shows, mail etc, they loved the lavosh. They didn’t just enjoy it, they loved [it] and they wanted to be associated with it,” Ms Lebsanft said.
“So, we got a sense that this is a brand that can be built. We’re feeling good about delivering the outcomes to them at their entertaining tables. Then suddenly appears on the [supermarket] shelf from Arnott’s [a rival product].
“I can’t remember the name of the range, but they had four sweet varieties and then they brought out a savoury range with these four products, and one of them included lavosh. They went for a different spelling — they went for a French spelling — but in pricing, they took the high ground.”
She admitted that they and their little business based on Sydney’s outskirts “saw it as an attack on us”.
“Of course, when you’re a family business — very small, having started only a few years earlier — and Arnott’s, the big guy on the block, comes along and says, ‘Ah’, and starts to enter your market, of course, the first thing we thought was we are dead in the water.”
So how did Kurrajong Kitchen survive?
One option would have been to simply give up, but Ms Lebsanft said that after a brief period to “regroup”, their resilience kicked in and they determinedly said, “No, we’re not going down without a fight”.
“We just considered what our options were. We thought outside the square: we put a little note inside all the packets of lavosh — we did not name the company — and we just said, ‘This is a David and Goliath battle and we need you to continue to support us. Share this brand so that we can stay on the shelves’.”
She said their other decision was to avoid the temptation to try new product options and offerings, and instead hold fast to their original recipe and concept that had worked so well up to that point.
The approach paid off, with Ms Lebsanft saying that their product outsold that of Arnott’s “two to one”.
“And they didn’t end up staying on the shelves,” she said.
“It was a big guy; it was a David and Goliath battle and we held true. We had a lot to lose back then, but I suppose we also had got some glory and grit to go for the fight.”
Ms Lebsanft added: “I think it’s that we held true to what we were and who we are [that we survived].”