Our Story

 1998 - Our Story

Lee Etherington is the founder of Kurrajong Australian Native Foods and Wild Hibiscus Flower Company.  A born entrepreneur and also a passionate naturalist and foodie who has grown up exploring Australia’s Deserts, rainforests and woodlands. Having experienced native foods from an early age, and having a passion for cooking and unique foods it was a natural progression for Lee to start experimenting with Australia’s many bushfoods.

Lee started business early from humble beginnings with an adventure tour company designed around bushfoods.  He would share his knowledge and passion guiding tour groups through local bush and deep natural canyons of the Blue Mountains, northwest of Sydney.

Lee created a signature bushfood spread for his local and international guests consisting of wattleseed bread, yabby tails and other native products replacing the typical picnic foods.

As a memorable promotional gift he started making his own bushtucker jam to serve and give away in mini jam jars on his tours.  So Lee collected and de-seeded berries from the forest behind his home and made the first 1.5 liter batch of Lilli Pilli Conserve in his mother's kitchen.

Early days..Jocelyn Etherington (left) enjoying one of Lee’s spectacular bushtucker picnics overlooking Walls Lookout, Blue Mountains, NSW Australia.

Kurrajong Australian Native Foods First Products

People were soon calling back asking to buy some more of that first delicious creation.  Before long people were walking out with bags full of products. Lee's mission was now to meet this demand.  He harvested more local native fruit trees by hand and set out to find commercial farmers from different parts of Australia to supply a variety of native fruits and spices.  Kurrajong Australian Native Foods was born!

The range grew quickly and Kurrajong Native Food products became highly sought after.  One taste, and the people were hooked! 

Little did Lee know that in one years time he would be toiling over much bigger pots, creating hundreds of liters of Lilli Pilli Conserve and about 50 other products and distributing thousands of jars all over the country.

Kurrajong Native Foods - First Markets

Lee started popping up at farmers markets across NSW and placing his signature hand logo on all of his products.  He also contributed significantly to the establishment of the Hawkesbury Harvest - a wonderful local farm gate trail and farmers markets co-op that still operates today and adds lots of community value.


Lee Etherington's Invention - Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup

One of our products which is particularly popular with the with the Queenslanders is the traditional Rosella Jam - made from rosella flowers - a type of hibiscus from North Queensland.  

It was by chance at a more than lively dinner party one night that Lee and partner, Jocelyn and their guests dropped a rosella flower into a glass of champagne (the flowers and other native fruits were always on hand for making the bushfood produce). Watching in amazement as the flower started to unfurl and look particularly special in the glass, the idea was sparked by Lee to create the first bottled whole hibiscus flowers in syrup.

From that day, Lee Etherington began devising proven techniques in farming and production and a natural preservative - a mix of spring water and Australian cane sugar - that keeps the flowers perfectly candied and ready to eat for more than 36 months.

Lee coined the name "Wild Hibiscus" which perfectly describes the nature of the flowers, the unique product itself and the fun loving nature of those who enjoy it.

The idea sparked interest among foodies, cocktail lovers and industry professionals alike. With a cult-like following our flowers are now internationally recognized and continue to appear in many cocktail bars, restaurants, dinner parties, celebrations, weddings and other fun and classy gatherings.

Lee demonstrates his new product to interested attendees and journalists from The Sydney Telegraph Newspaper at Pyrmont Farmers Markets.

2000-2005 Our Story

This was a period of taking stock of what was happening and scaling up to match new found popularity of our products! 

This involved moving to a new facility, employing more staff, being listed in major retailers and setting up Bushtuckershop.com to sell online.

Initial export inquiries were received all the way from London which prompted a period where Lee and Jocelyn traveled the world to exploring the international market place.  To our excitement, we made our first export of Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup to UK and Europe.

Company owners, Lee and Jocelyn Etherington (left) at their first international trade show in London.

2005-2006 Wild Hibiscus Flower Company is Born

Word had spread and we began to see renowned chefs, bartenders and celebrities wanting Wild Hibiscus and creating some amazing food and cocktails with our products.

Jocelyn decided to shift from her own corporate career and  invest her management background in the business with Lee and his entrepreneurial visions. They joined business minded forces and their love of good food, wine and cocktails and the rest is history made possible through the efforts of our team and support from our wonderful customers.

Wild Hibiscus Flower Company is born and becomes the core of our business domestically and internationally whilst still trading as Kurrajong Australian Native Foods in Australia.

Hibiscus Farming Gets Serious Business

Whilst our native foods range is more niche and limited by fruit supply in Australia, the demand for Wild Hibiscus became higher than our supply.

Since hibiscus is a seasonal crop in Australia we decided to chase the sun across the Australasian tropical belt and establish a growers network to supply us year round with fresh hibiscus flowers. 

We teamed up with local farmers, shared knowledge, learned whole new cultures and collaborated on specifications for farming practices and fruit quality required for our unique products.   Our approach has and always will be to nurture the relationship with our farmers and promote environmentally sustainable practices for the benefit of our suppliers and to ensure long term capability for export to many countries.

In January 2008 we commissioned a new, purpose built factory for the production of both Wild Hibiscus Flowers and the Kurrajong Australian Native Foods range.  This was a huge leap forward for us and also for the native foods industry.

Through the years there have been many temptations to change the way we do things - to outsource or mechanise our production or to compromise on the high percentage weight of the very rarest fruits we use to make our products.

We have flatly rejected all of this. Our primary focus is to produce the highest quality native foods without compromise and to support the very few people who can supply our ingredients in quantity.

Today we  continue to produce a vast range of native foods for the Australian market and distribute Wild Hibiscus Flower Company products to over 50 countries through our solid distribution network.

We remain a small family business with big capabilities and are  passionate about what we do and how we do it.

Our own, much larger facility today is located in the beautiful Hawkesbury region, northwest of Sydney, Australia where we still hand make all of our products with all-natural ingredients - each with a pinch of love and wonderment of where they will end up before shipping out to people all over the world.

We continue to travel extensively throughout Asia, Europe and North America to source new food ingredients, research our markets and continue to develop new product ideas and continue on our journey.