Jacob Davidson


CREDIT: Joanna Spensley 

Jacob Davidson is a proud descendant of the Gunditjamara and Ngarrindjeri mobs of South West Victoria and South East South Australia and is passionate about taking the family catering business to the next level through the creation of a gourmet condiments range showcasing native ingredients – many being superfoods.

The QUT Alumni Team sat down with Jacob to chat about his role as Head of Strategy at FigJam and Co and how the business plans to capitalise on the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Can you tell us more about FigJam and Co and your role as Head of Strategy?

At FigJam and Co, we are proud to be 100% Indigenous owned and operated. Since 1995, our skilled chefs have created naturally delicious catering for corporate events in Southeast Queensland.

Each morning before sunrise, our dedicated team is busy preparing tasty food with fresh Australian ingredients in our Stones Corner kitchen. Our tantalising menus include exotic fruit platters, bush tucker grazing, sliders, burgers, sandwiches, salads, savoury snacks and sweet treats.

We also manufacture FigJam Collections, a range of gourmet condiments bursting with real flavours and more than 90% Australian ingredients! We source seasonal ingredients and nutritious superfoods such as Davidson plum, lemon myrtle, pigface, purslane, anise myrtle, old man saltbush, Tasmanian mountain pepper and cinnamon myrtle, from First Nations owned and operated properties and social enterprises throughout Australia.

As Head of Strategy for FigJam and Co I was instrumental in executing a fully-integrated online ordering platform and streamlining business processes. More recently I was engaged as a corporate speaker at industry and public sector events in Queensland and New South Wales.

You recently had the opportunity to participate in the Queensland government’s pilot of its Indigenous Native Food Program (INFP). Can you tell us what you took back to the business?

As a participant in the INFP program, over a period of 12 months, FigJam and Co adopted a more scientific approach to our product manufacturing. This approach has enabled FigJam and Co to expand its manufacturing, extend the shelf life of our condiment products and generate a second income stream.

One of the highlights of the INFP was working with Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to register two Australian native bush foods for commercial human consumption. I am very proud to announce that FigJam and Co is the first company in Australia to receive approval to use pigface and purslane in our range of condiments.

One of the goals of the INFP is to promote Queensland native ingredients ahead of the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games. How do you plan to use this event platform?

The goal is to build capacity and capability of Queensland based Indigenous food businesses. We worked closely with the Department of Agriculture (DAF) team who facilitated the INFP. At FigJam and Co, we developed six condiments made from native bush food ingredients that are sourced from suppliers throughout Australia as well as wild harvested crops across Queensland.

The program has increased awareness and promoted knowledge sharing about procuring bush food ingredients from Indigenous suppliers, showcasing Australian ingredients as well as selling products commercially. The FigJam Collection of gourmet condiments is sold for restaurant food service, retail stores, corporate gifts, and as a value-add product in manufacturing.

You recently returned to QUT to study a Bachelor of Science. Can you share what prompted your return to study?

I’ve always had a genuine interest in geology and love rocks. For me, the concept of Australian bush foods relates closely to Australian geological history – the how and why bush foods became the super foods they are today, and the connection with the root systems. I really enjoyed studying, but FigJam and Co needed a bigger commitment.

During COVID, our catering business was slowing down (almost grinding to a halt), and our manufacturing arm was still in its infancy stage. Post covid, steady income was challenging to say the least so we had to pivot to stay afloat. It was all hands-on deck and our family rallied together. Since then, both our catering and manufacturing arm of the business has bounced back - like a freight train.

A parent shouldn’t have favourite children but do you have a favourite or essential condiment you recommend from the range?

I love the Hot Bush Sambal and the story that goes with it - our chef couldn’t handle the heat so we neutralised the spicy chilli with bush food fruit pulps. The multi-layered flavours are bang, pow wow.

The recipe inspiration came from Southeast Asia, a part of the world that is close to my heart. I travelled throughout Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia after finishing my Business Degree.

What are some of your career highlights?

I am thrilled at how FigJam and Co has flourished over the past six years. Earlier this year, I travelled to Singapore as a guest of Austrade to showcase our condiment range to high end clients. At a Queensland State Development Breakfast, I presented our five-year transformation by sharing insights into building and nurturing client relationships, applying for government grants and supporting business growth.

As a panellist at the APEC Symposium in Sydney this year, I spoke candidly about the development of transparency within the native bush food industry. At Fine Foods Australia, an invitation only event hosted by Austrade, FigJam and Co showcased our gourmet condiment range to international delegates.

More recently we became a finalist in the Lord Mayors Business Awards 2023 – Transformation Award.

Can you name some of your food heroes or people who inspire you?

Anthony Bordain speaks from a very grass roots place in the food industry. As I grew up working in the family café, I can relate to how Anthony speaks of spending hours with people in confined spaces and then being released back into the real world. His travel with work through food is an inspiration and I have been lucky enough to travel to a lot of countries.

Action Bronson – F&$% that’s delicious. Again, he takes a raw approach to the food industry and cooking for flavour and technique rather than chasing the COGS to the bottom.

What is one skill you couldn’t live without and why?

Excel – I thought it was useless while I was at university and working in the corporate space. However, when I joined the family business and had to develop the business at a strategic level, I found if you can speak Excel you can do anything.

(published 28/09/23 https://www.qut.edu.au/engage/alumni/insights/jacob-davidson-transformation)

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