Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Proudly Oz-African

One of the first things I've noticed, being a fresh-off-the-boat Souf Efrican in Oz, is the  number of South African companies that have opened up shop here. I get really excited about this, pointing them out to no-one in particular whilst jumping up and down like a kid outside a petshop. Yet, when I proudly enlighten Aussies of the roots of these companies I tend to get a "Oh, I didn't know that so and so was South African," usually followed by a "I also don't really give a shit...," muttered under the breath.  I guess it's not really that interesting to most people, but I think other Saffa expats know the feeling, that twinge of pride mixed with homesickness, of unexpectedly seeing something from home in a foreign location.

 Ann Street Spar, Fortitude Valley

The first time it happened was when I was walking around in our neighbourhood and spotted a Spar Supermarket (There's a friendly Spar, wherever you are!). Funnily enough, they are pretty much the same as normal Spar's in South Africa (in other words, a tad more expensive than your average supermarket chain). Of course, like most South Africans I ignorantly assumed Spar was a South African company (due to the name which means "Save" in Afrikaans) but they're actually Dutch and moved to SA in the 1960s (and Oz in the mid-80s) and have the most stores in the UK with well over 2000, compared to SA's odd 700 and Australia's 75 shops.

Brisbane is also home to Australia's two Pick 'n Pay Hypermarkets, in Sunnybank and Aspley. The Pick 'n Pay in Aspley which was established in the 80s, was,according to Wikimapia, once "the largest supermarket in the Southern Hemisphere", and is now owned by Coles.  Nice and big, just like the South African ones, where you could get lost in the myriad of neon lights, whole trolley-surfing down the white-tiled aisles and  perusing the  endless Great Wall-like shelves for hours!

Perhaps my favourite South African company in Australia (at least the one I'm most thankful for) is Nando's. Luckily, their Australian marketing is as on-the-ball and witty as their South African big brother's, with a great website and in-store advertising. I do miss the fantastic TV ads which the franchise is so famous for in South Africa and is sadly lacking here.

They've been in Oz since 1990, arriving on the Western shores just like those famous peri-peri Portuguese explorers Da Gama and Diaz did round the tip of Africa all those years ago. Their chicken is also just as tasty, and they offer the same range of scrumptious sauces and marinades here.  In fact, if I walk around in a Spar here in Brissy and am faced with a shelf-full of Nando's sauces, I could just as easily be anywhere in suburban South Africa.

Courtesy of

Sadly, if you google Nando's, the UK franchises dominate, the web which may actually fool people into erroneously believing that this salivating peri-peri chicken take-aways originated in England (or Portugal!). This proudly South African export is now in 26 countries on five continents.

The final, and perhaps most surprising South African company in Oz is those brasse "Ek en djy", or the fish company I&J! Their fish fingers can be found adorning the frozen foods section of many an Aussie supermarket today, a long cast from Charles "Ocean" Johnson and George "Driver" Irvine's humble beginnings, trawling the Cape coastline in the early 1900s. They hit the Australian market in 1997, and have since defrosted the Aussie hearts with their fantastic ad campaign starring Iron Jay, the fish-finger mad, pro wrestler, who has since built up a cult following. I&J is now the second biggest retail seafood brand in Australia.

I have a feeling that this might only be the tip of the frozen iceberg lettuce and I'll try to uncover more South African brands living large in Oz, but if you know of any, please  drop a comment!


  1. I remember causing a scense when I saw a Nandos in London!

    And Spar isn't South african? You just sook my world to its core...

  2. I have this annoying argument with EVERYONE in the UK: "Nandos isn't South African, it's Portuguese." It makes me self combust! So by their logic, only Italians open pizza chains??

  3. the Ceres juice and Robertson spices in Vietnam look like meagre offerings compared to the abundance of SA products in Brisbane.

    But, no worries, in five weeks I'll have WOOLWORTHS again, jay!

    And that is the fancy-schmansy WW ("Die storie van Gehalte"), not the Pep Stores-type found in the UK (although, if I remember correctly, UK Woolworths didn't survive the recession).


  4. Haha - loved the I&J ad. In South Africa Iron Jay would be replaced with Vernon Koekemoer!

  5. I know! I was shocked when I made the discovery too Helen. Po - I will personally peri-peri the next person's eye-socket who tells me Nando's is from Purtugal! Loesil - Ek weet, I&J ad is killer!

  6. I know the feeling. I get the same happy feeling everytime I go to IKEA in another country. Just pure joy. And then I get to show off a little by pronouncing the names of the products correctly :D

  7. No one ever believes me that Nandos is South African. I have to resort to saying that the founders went to the same school as my mum.

    We get Spar here too!

  8. I was shocked when I walked into my local fruit and veg shop recently and found... Mrs Balls! And not just the 'Original' but the 'Peach' flavour too. I bought both!

  9. Mmmm...Mrs Balls. Another one I've found recently: Appletiser and Grapetiser at Coles. Quite cheap too