Wild Foods' Role in Healthy Eating by Vic Cherikoff and Australian Functional Ingredients

Wild Foods’ Role in Healthy Eating by Vic Cherikoff and Australian Functional Ingredients

Episode Overview

Episode Topic:

In this episode of NutraPreneur, Learn about the captivating world of Vic Cherikoff of Australian wild foods. And get into the innovative landscape of nutraceuticals with a focus on integrating ancient wisdom with modern practices. From foraging in the wilderness to pioneering the wild food industry, learn how Vic Cherikoff has transformed the way we perceive and utilize natural ingredients. Get ready for an immersive journey into the diverse flavors and health benefits of Australian botanicals, herbs, and spices.

Lessons You’ll Learn:                                                                                     

Throughout the episode, you’ll get valuable insights into the power of resilience and adaptability in entrepreneurship. Vic Cherikoff’s journey serves as a testament to the importance of maintaining relationships, embracing challenges, and staying flexible in the face of market fluctuations. You’ll discover the significance of education and communication in bridging the gap between traditional knowledge and contemporary applications. Moreover, you’ll learn about the potential of wild foods to revolutionize not only culinary practices but also oral care and food safety.

About Our Guest:

Vic Cherikoff is a visionary entrepreneur and pioneer in the Australian wild food industry. With decades of experience in foraging, scientific analysis, and business innovation, Vic has played a significant role in reshaping the nutraceutical landscape. His passion for exploring the flavors and health benefits of indigenous Australian botanicals has led to groundbreaking developments in culinary and health industries. As the managing director of Australian Functional Ingredients Proprietary Limited, Vic continues to lead the way in integrating wild foods into modern lifestyles.

Topics Covered:

In this episode, we cover a wide range of topics, including Vic Cherikoff’s journey into the Australian wild food industry, the challenges and opportunities of integrating wild foods into modern practices, the importance of educating chefs and consumers about diverse flavors, and the revolutionary potential of products like Herbal Active in improving food safety and reducing waste. We also delve into Vic’s entrepreneurial strategies for navigating market changes and his passion for promoting health through wild foods innovation. Get ready for an enlightening discussion on the transformative power of Australian wild foods!

Our Guest:
Vic Cherikoff, Pioneer of Australian Wild Foods

Vic Cherikoff is a pioneer in the world of Australian wild foods, renowned for his pioneering efforts in integrating ancient wisdom with modern practices. With a background in biochemistry, industrial micro, and environmental biology, Vic took on a journey of discovery as a young forager, searching for the rich biodiversity of Australian flora. His insatiable curiosity led him to analyze wild foods for their nutritional content, laying the groundwork for his future endeavors in the nutraceutical industry.

Throughout his career, Vic Cherikoff has been at the forefront of revolutionizing the perception and utilization of natural ingredients. From analyzing wild foods in the lab to crisscrossing the Australian continent in search of botanical treasures, he has dedicated decades to uncovering the potential of indigenous Australian flora. Vic’s deep respect for Indigenous knowledge and culture has guided his work, forging strong relationships with Aboriginal communities and elders who have shared their wisdom and traditional practices.


As the managing director of Australian Functional Ingredients Proprietary Limited, Vic Cherikoff continues to push the boundaries of innovation in the nutraceutical landscape. His commitment to sustainability and ethical sourcing is evident in his partnerships with Indigenous communities and his efforts to preserve Australia’s unique biodiversity. With a focus on health, culinary, and manufacturing applications, Vic’s work has made a significant impact on nutrition, lifestyle, medicine, and longevity research, cementing his legacy as a visionary in the field of wild foods and natural health solutions.

Wild Foods' Role in Healthy Eating by Vic Cherikoff and Australian Functional Ingredients

Wild Foods' Role in Healthy Eating by Vic Cherikoff and Australian Functional Ingredients

Episode Transcript: 

Bethany Jolley: Welcome to another episode of neutropenia, where we uncover the future of the nutraceutical industry through the lens of innovation and expertise. I’m your host, Bethany, and today we’re honored to have Vic Cherikoff, managing director of Australian Functional Ingredients Proprietary Limited, with us. Vic stands at the forefront of integrating ancient Australian wild foods with modern health, culinary and manufacturing practices, making a significant impact on nutrition, lifestyle, medicine and longevity research. So let’s go ahead and dive into the world of wild foods and explore how they’re shaping the nutraceutical landscape. So, Vic, it’s so great to have you today.

 Vic Cherikoff: And it’s great to be here.

Bethany Jolley: Yes, yes. And first, I think it’d be great if you could just walk us through your journey into the Australian wild food industry and the inception of Australian functional ingredients.

Vic Cherikoff: Sure. Well, we’re going back many decades.  I was foraging as a teenager. I’d go out to national parks, uh, around Sydney and, further interstate and around the place and just, just taste things. I sort of developed this sort of taste and spit type concept. I didn’t even know what I was eating, but, at the time, I think there was only one guidebook, which was Wild Foods in Australia, published in the 70s and, and one report that the military had as a, as a bit of a foraging guide, mainly in the, in the very top of Australia.  so not very useful. both of those, so sort of discovering for myself and I actually did a science degree initially into oceanography because I was into snorkeling and scuba diving and so forth as well.  I thought, maybe I’ll do oceanography, but then decided, I’d better find out what I’ve been eating all these years. What’s their botany? What’s the, you know, the nature of the plants and so on. I did a triple degree, which was biochemistry, industrial micro, which sort of interested me in part as well. I commercialized that later on in my career, but also environmental biology. I was absolutely just blown away by the environment and  the botany of it. And I was really lucky in the early days, while I was still doing my degree, which was sort of because there were so many subjects and effectively three degrees.

Vic Cherikoff: It was over a five year period. And my lecturer, who was actually Nicole Kidman, you might have heard of the Australian actress. Well, her father, Tony Kidman, was my biochemistry lecturer. Stopped me in the hallway, in mid my, my degrees. He said, are you still here? I’ve got a job for you. He found me this job in clinical pharmacology at one of the universities,  teaching at one of the hospitals here in Sydney. And clinical pharmacology was all about basically neuroscience and drugs. our reaction to those I was working with on schizophrenia. Parkinson, autism, Huntington’s career. In fact Marjorie Guthrie, who was married to Woody Guthrie, American folk singer, and had Arlo Guthrie, who was, you know, a hero of mine in the musical industry with Alice’s Restaurant was a big hit of his date, way, way back. I’m showing my age here.  but she funded the research for a few years, even in clinical pharmacology. It’s interesting that neuroscience also is now again at the forefront of so many health concerns with mental diseases and ADHD and so forth. Schizophrenia, obviously. Alzheimer’s. All that sort of stuff was almost later the groundwork for what I was going to do later then.

Vic Cherikoff: I was really lucky in that out of nearly 100 applicants, I got a job in nutritional science at the University of Sydney, and that was analyzing wild foods for their protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, all that sort of stuff. And it was still in the early days before we got into the phytonutrients, the antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, adaptogens and the whole many,  there’s about nine different classes of phytonutrients now that are really the leading edge of medicine again and health. That’s my background. and through all that while, I was actually, in fact, even in my first year of analyzing the wild foods, I would get large samples of foods because they had to be a representative sample.  You know, you might get a half a bucket full of a particular food, freeze, dry it, pulverize it to a powder, and then you analyze it. Literally only a handful, sometimes only a, you know, half a teaspoon of product. You don’t need it for too many analyses.  I was totally fortunate again, even though I was storing all these powders so that I would taste the food. It’s not sort of getting a bit of a feel for him. Before I rendered them into a freeze dried powder and I was just blown away by the flavors.

Vic Cherikoff: There’s just new flavors. You think you’ve tried every citrus fruit in the world, and then suddenly, you know the lemon Aspen has got this almost a grapefruit pash. sort of. It’s sort of lemony and mandarin-ish, I guess, in a way. But it’s a brand new citrus, and so that’s exciting to me. It was exciting and so many flavors that had these aromatic and pungent, and then herbs and spices came into it.  I actually approached a restaurant that was promoting themselves as an Australian restaurant and said, well, what do you serve? You know, what’s Australian? He says  well, we do,  we do Buffalo. And I said, hang on, that’s not that’s Asian. You know, that’s not an Australian species. and kangaroos at the time were actually illegal to serve in Australia. unless it was the only meat in the restaurant. So we had to tackle those sorts of legal issues as well. I got kangaroo on the menu. I got a whole lot of seafood associated with all these,  plant and herb,  products.  That was sort of how I started. And then it just grew from there. And while I was doing the nutritional work, I also traveled around Australia, crisscrossed the country many, many times,  worked again, funding has always been a challenge. You know, going to Marjorie Guthrie was one thing.

Vic Cherikoff: She coming to the department and then funding the research was just brilliant. Um, but I got funding from Qantas to fund my trips around the world and or around the country. Sorry, not the world. Getting samples from around the country as well, working with the health department up in the top end and one of the areas called the Northern Territory,  the Royal Flying Doctor Service in remote areas. They helped me move into parts of northern Queensland. Again. I visited 3 or 4 Aboriginal communities up there, and I used to go back time and time again. So it’s very fortunate. I then bought a four wheel drive and then also went out for weeks at a time, was involved in many, many research projects and so on. I guess, it was a bit of an early groundwork for how I started working and developed the entrepreneurial race as well, because it was easier for me to maintain relationships with people that I’d met and I’d visited and lived with and gone out bush with and foraged. And then they would send the product in for analysis to the lab. And in many ways, I found that by maintaining all those sorts of relationships and having friends, in fact, you know, here in the indigenous world, it’s sort of like aunties.

Vic Cherikoff: I’ve got aunties all over the country, who would welcome me every time I go and appear in those communities. And even now I can ring up and get to get to the people. And then, um, uh, you know, we talk about old days and we’re out bush again. Unfortunately, many of them do pass. I seem to be out living everyone out that I that I went out with, um, in the early days the older women and um, but still it is very, very interesting that, um, I’ve done the same thing with the business, uh, because like a lot of businesses, you bring on partners and you think that they’re going to contribute to the business and they bring a little bit of money in, and they value their money more than my decades of experience and research and connections. And I’ve been through all the legal hassles that a lot of early entrepreneurs have suffered as well. You learn to maintain the relationships really tightly. You know, I can effectively get away from those partners, legally or otherwise. It might cost some money, but at least the business stays mine. Then I just started new businesses. I wound up a few or a few business entities, but never left any debt behind. again, so my suppliers and my customers stayed with me through several iterations of the business.


Vic Cherikoff: So effectively, I’ve been in business since the early 1980s. Was the pioneer of the wild food industry at that stage, worked with governments to try and introduce the whole concept to industry, and worked with a few of the growers who were sort of starting to emerge. We had an Australian Association of Indigenous Foods. There’s been, again, movement through there. A lot of people have gone broke, particularly through the GFC and then Covid and so forth. That’s sort of it in a way, but. Hopefully this internet connection is unstable. We’re back again. hopefully.  In many ways I guess the educational side of things has been the most challenging. how to train chefs to use the products. I always thought, here’s a whole think of an artist that’s discovering a whole new set of colors. An artist? You would think a painter would be extremely excited about using these colors. And they just adapt them to what they’re doing in their, in their day to day. I thought chefs would be sort of the same. You know, their colors are the foods and the flavors that they use. very quickly. But I thought I’d be an overnight success in a couple of years. It’s taken 25 years.

Vic Cherikoff: Well, more now, in fact, probably close to 30, 35, where chefs finally are wanting to use these flavors. And I’ve been able to provide some networks, some structure, some empirical data, if you like. from a scientific viewpoint, that allows chefs to then taste a product and then incorporate it into any cuisine, because typically chefs are taught, you know, an Italian style or French style, a German American, whatever, and they follow those and then they muck around the edges and we have fusion cuisine or confusion cuisine, but you bring a new whole class of ingredients and without an established cuisine, because don’t forget, there were 600 different clans around Australia, and they all had a smattering of nearly 3000 different foods in in this continent. there wasn’t any clear definition, and it didn’t take long for the British to absolutely decimate the Australian, the, the Indigenous Australians, as a population and fragment the whole First Nation people. Now they’re starting to come together. There’s a lot of indigenous chefs, which is great to see. men and women. I work with many of them. I’m still struggling to teach chefs that there’s more than just five flavors. it’s even an effort to pull those flavors from chefs, when, you know, you’re sort of asking, well, you know, your food, you know, food and flavor, what are the flavors in food? There’s 12 of them.

Vic Cherikoff: There’s actually 13 or. But what are the flavors in food and flavors and smells and so forth. And they get stuck on herbs and spices. Well, you know, those pungency and aromatics if you like herbaceous notes, aromatics, pungency. you know, by being able to provide some language of communication and I in a way had to become a chef by jargon, a chef by training, I had to show people how the foods went together. I ran countless courses for chefs. Then I even funded a 13 part TV series called Dining Down Under. Dining Hyphen Down Under. Comm is still out there as a website, and that’s way back from 2003, I think we did it to five. And I traveled to that TV show, which I funded myself, a 13 part series, with myself and two other chefs. Uh, well, two chefs, wasn’t it? I’m not really qualified, chef. I just cook with the ingredients, and tell chefs that they should be cooking this way, but, arrogance, I guess. but in any event, I had fun doing that. it showed in 48 countries and some, sometimes twice in those countries. I took one of the chefs that did the show with me, and we just traveled the world for a number of years doing Australian food promotions.

Vic Cherikoff:  lived in some or spent, you know, a couple of weeks and some amazing places on the planet, a few American places as well, smaller restaurants, primarily, but, went to Moscow, went to Nagoya, Osaka in Japan, Guam, New Zealand. We did work on airlines, on cruise ships. sailed some six star cruise ships, which was awesome, in fact, three times. You know, that was the way that I, in a way, presented the flavor to the chefs I met and got as much publicity as I could with it. then let it go and you try and then survive things like the GFC and Covid and so forth, with restaurants closing and businesses going. I guess my, again, in a way, I borrowed from Aboriginal culture, from Indigenous Australian culture, where they always had alternative resources. Paved with medicines. For example, if you got a headache or if you cut yourself badly, you needed to be able to treat that condition irrespective of where you are walking around in or living at the time in your country. My business ended up with a retail range, a food service range, now a health range. And that’s sort of my passion in a way. I’ve cycled back all the way from, you know, clinical pharmacology through nutritional science into the food industry and now back into, into the health concepts of food as well.

Vic Cherikoff: The PR is always sort of out there trying to, you know, trying to pay as much attention as you can write articles these days online with blogs and medium and so forth. various, various ways of just getting information out there. Email database driving is probably the biggest driver for my business these days. But, um, you know, the whole concept has always been to have as many strings to your bow. one of those, in fact, was almost a side shoot, which was herbal active. We say herbal. It’s herbal active for Americans. but herbal active is a natural antimicrobial. In a way it epitomized and it won an Australian Food Industry Innovation Award back in 2013. Um, and I’ve just signed a deal for one company in Australia and another in the US, to potentially distribute the product, to extend the shelf life of, of fresh produce and meats as well. Proteins as well. but it becomes sort of like a fruit and veggie wash, but it’s better than that. It also improves food safety. It also reduces food waste, obviously. there’s environmental concerns as well or benefits as well. Plus, extending the food, shelf life and therefore saving you money at the end of the day.

Vic Cherikoff: But that’s just one tiny little facet, and it’s a bit like wild foods across the board. You know, they fit into one market and then suddenly there’s another market, another market, another market. So we’ve also supplied manufacturers with freeze dried or dried products.  that’s always been ongoing because it’s bigger slabs of, of purchases and bigger amounts of products. you know, the McCormick’s of the market and, and others, we’ve not gotten onto airlines with Virgin Australia and Qantas and so on.  that, again, is a big slabs of business at a time. But it comes and goes. So you have to remain as flexible as you are with events like GFC and Covid as well. you know, you learn basically along the way I guess, my passion now is the health food range and herbal activity. They’re the two strands to my business that I’m most keen on developing and sort of ten axing in a way.  and They are growing rapidly now because the herb is active, we’ve just moved it into an oral, a professional dental health care, oral program. great for pets as well.  Interestingly, we spend more money on our pets than we do on ourselves. you know, it’s a nice little opportunity in a way.

Vic Cherikoff: I can actually, with a pet poodle that I had years ago that ended up with sort of pretty late stage,  periodontal disease. And the vet said, look, you’re going to have to remove all the dog’s teeth. I said, well, how’s it going to eat? they said, soft food and that’s not going to work because it really likes crunching liver treats and things like that.  Anyway, I started to have 12 months before this dog was going to go into surgery and cost me 2 or $3000 at the time and have all its teeth removed and then live a miserable life.  I started spraying the teeth and gums with my herbal active. Three months later, we went back to the vet.  You know, sure enough, the vet looked in the mouth, looked on the computer for the earlier prognosis by another vet back to the dog’s mouth, and looked all over the place. Back to the computer, I said. Yeah, look, I’ve been spraying it with a product that I make in the market and paid no attention to that, totally ignored it and just basically said, oh look, it must have been a misdiagnosis, you know. Well, it wasn’t the teeth were basically brown and the gum was infected at the time. but I healed it.

Vic Cherikoff: In fact, recently, just a couple of weeks ago, I ended up with a split tooth, had the dental, the dentist capped the tooth and sort of cleaned it up a little bit. Then a few days later I got this infection in the gum and the tooth went wobbly. I thought it was going to lose it again. Herbal is active in the mouth a week and it’s back in there. It’s solid, no pain, no infection whatsoever. I’m back on the path of getting it into oral care products even more widely rather than just the movement into the US with it. There’s lots and lots of these sorts of advantages. It’s exciting, I guess.  It’s exciting because there’s so many opportunities, but then trying to regulate what’s going to take the minimum amount. Can I find joint venture partners to do it?  The formulation for Herbal Active is not patented because anyone could change a recipe. It’s food products essentially mixed into a, into a format. It’s proprietary knowledge. There are so many ingredients that no one can easily analyze it and break it all down because it’s a mix of nine different essential oils. done all the science on it and gone through the US FDA.  it’s approved in America, it’s proven,  internationally and we’ve sold it internationally.

Vic Cherikoff:  That business in the US now is starting to become quite significant. That’s exciting as well. It’s been sprayed on packaging for cold filling food products and so on. I’ve got a couple of companies that are sort of starting to move it forward themselves, and we actually sell a concentrate into the US to cut the cost of moving stuff across the planet.  We then formulate a concentrate into the finished product in the US,  in Arizona. Then that goes out to our customers. A series of relationships that I maintain that keeps the whole thing in-house and pretty tight as well. No one can really copy it easily. The wild food products are health products and are absolutely amazing.  we can’t make claims here in Australia anywhere near what can be made in Australia, in the US. And actually people get away with things. The FDA obviously has some guidelines, but they’re a bit more flexible than the right rules that we’re really handcuffed with in, in Australia, where you cannot make any claims over food, but you can draw some food, health relationships, which is neat. A lot of the information now seems to be leaking out there from my pushing.  I’ve only got four products and a couple of you know, oral mists and facial mists, which are functional as well.

Vic Cherikoff: My four products pretty much address most of the diseases of nutrition.  These are the food health relationships that I can sort of talk about, and not making claims as such, but simply allude to the fact that these are phytonutrient rich products and phytonutrients have been academically shown to do this.  It’s sort of an indirect claim.  I’m very proud that I’ve had oncologists refer their terminal patients to me. People have been told they’re at the very end of their lives, end of the path, end of the road with conventional medicine. I can imagine what their colleagues have said, you know, there’s this crank in Sydney. He’s blogging this stuff. Check it out and see if it’s going to work, you know, because you’ve got no other options. Go get your life in order.  You know, there is no way forward now. They’ve come to me in desperation. We’ve been able to have women with breast cancer several types of  gastric cancer.  there’s been a whole range across the board. Interestingly, the science now looks just at a couple of the ingredients that are in my products as well, specifically, they’ve been able to essentially show that in test tubes, they’re extremely potent against lines of cancers, and yet they’re totally innocuous to normal human cells.

Vic Cherikoff: That’s exactly what you want. My products are proving to work in the same way. I don’t like being, sort of responsible for people at the very end of their treatment, obviously at the end of the road. I prefer to get people early on, get them into it, and then benefiting from all the work. The interesting thing is  way back in 1908 and more in 19, was it 1913, 1914, 1916? And now more recently, there’s been an explosion of work done through paleo ethno pathology. So that’s looking at, ethnic remains from discrete groups and looking at soft tissues. With the science and technology that we have now, we can actually look at these tissues. Soft tissues remain and it’s fairly rare. But they’ve been able to study,  through pathology, through pathological methods that cancers were almost nonexistent in cultures that were traditional or eating their traditional diets. Pre-agricultural. So hunter gatherers, largely around the world.  in Australia, in America, with the Native Americans, with the in Africa, with a whole range of different tribes and even in parts of Europe where foraging for foods and eating these amazing wild foods from around the world was so protective against, as I say, the disease of nutrition, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, mental diseases.

Vic Cherikoff: We’re learning more and more as to how those foods and the quality of those foods are actually causing and delivering those results. That’s exciting times for me, you know, on a new pathway, in a way. I mean, I’ve been at it for ten years. On the health aspects coming back, as I said, to nutrition and being able to put these things into play and have people ring up and say, yeah, look, I was on the road to a heart attack and now my arteries are clean, my heart’s no longer calcified and atrial fibrillation is gone. It’s now normal. The doctors said that was impossible.  In a way, I’m challenging the establishment before it was the culinary establishment. They say there’s, you know, new ideas are easy, but changing old ideas is the hard part. And with medicine, again, we’re going holistic. We’re going whole food. We’re using food as medicine. And we are nailing so many of these diseases of nutrition that,  I think the next five, ten years is going to be extremely exciting. we’re also sort of dropping back to looking at the causative associations or the actual causes of many diseases and the progression of disease. One of my good friends, had developed Ms.. she was getting quite a getting to the stage where she was unable to move her feet.

Vic Cherikoff:  she was going to physio and sort of sitting in a chair. The physiotherapist was saying, well, now think, you know, move your left foot, move your right foot, and sort of try to try and engage the mental connection between brain and feet. she wasn’t able to move her feet with this exercise. I got her onto all four of my products, developed a protocol for her. I’ve got this phone call.  here Simone was,  over the moon, basically saying I’ve moved them four times. I’ve moved my left foot. It’s never happened before. I don’t know whether it’s your product or whatever, but I’m doing, you know, amongst all the other things I take, I started your product and now I can move my foot and A few weeks later, she rang up again. All she said was 14, I said, and we had a long talk after there.  We know that it can undo a lot of damage that has previously been conceived as permanent damage and irreparable. that in a way, is my lifestyle.  That’s the reward from being an entrepreneur that, you know, you can actually make a difference in the world, in people’s planet,  people’s own world, and on for the planet as well.

Vic Cherikoff: I guess even with climate change, by encouraging farmers to safeguard,  remnant bushland, because there may be wild foods in there in rich bushland with productive wild foods, that’s also been a whole part of it, because I’m having to, address my main concern, which is will I have enough raw ingredients, to supply the demand as it comes on, as I ten-x my business. That’s what I’m doing along the way, is making sure that the ingredients are there, the supply is underpinned, there are still wild quality, and we’re not taking the wild foods down the same road as with conventional foods, where as soon as we began to agriculture food 10,000 years ago, we reduced the nut, the range of foods that we ate from, well, Aborigines, all around the country, indigenous Australians, from using the old word Indigenous Australians are  had access to ten times the number of foods that we eat today. But when you look at the nutritional value, it was infinitely better than what we’re eating today.  you look at fruits, for example, there’s only the avocado that has fat as a fat soluble vitamin source.  Every other fruit that we eat that’s cultivated has lost the fat soluble phytonutrients. They’ve just been bred out and fallen by the wayside as agronomists are growing fruits and vegetables more for the distribution line and export than for our inherent nutrition.

 Vic Cherikoff: As you breed tomatoes that become more robust, the flavor disappears because it’s in the same area on the DNA.  genetically you might be looking for one variant, one characteristic, but you’re always compromising nutrition along the way. Sugars are also a problem. You know, we can, you think,  read the information. Australia has two fruits and five vegetables. That says a lot that vegetables are better than fruits. But you work around with Indigenous Australians and they are far more fruits and varied fruits, and they do vegetables. Now they might have had half a dozen vegetables, but they had dozens of fruits that they ate in a year. Those fruits were low sugar, high fiber, massively rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatories in adaptogens, uh, minerals that we’re also losing through impoverished soils and so forth. And everything’s balanced.  In a way, we as human beings evolve with that style of food, with wild foods. It bugs me that, you know, we talk about the Mediterranean diet. Well, the Mediterranean diet wasn’t what Jamie Oliver in the US, in the UK basically says is the Mediterranean diet, which is, you know, olive oil and sardines and, you know, a couple of other fish and seafood, octopus and so forth, and very little else. And then you get chilies from South America.

Vic Cherikoff:  I mean, that’s the crazy Mediterranean diet. But the interesting thing is that around the shores of the Mediterranean, different countries had up to 100, 200, 300 different wild foods that were the basis of the Roman Empire’s food.  That is what, you know, the old Mediterranean diet, the true Mediterranean diet that does support good health. It does allow long life and healthy lives and an acute brain the whole way. good cognitive health along the way, which I think is really, really important. What’s the point of living in an old people’s home when you’re, essentially an adult nappy and just getting your bottom washed once or twice a day? That’s no life for me. And eating rubbish food because they’re cutting corners on the budget as well. For the old people’s home, you’ve got to basically look at how you want to live? What’s the point of living past a particular year, past a particular age, if your cognition is good, if your health’s there, if you can basically stop things like muscle wastage and bone density changes and you’re actually as fit as you are now, it’s true that, you know, 70, which is on there next year.  70 is really the new 30 if you do it right.  You know, I’m planning my projects for the year 100 to 110 years of age. So that’s where it goes.

Bethany Jolley: This episode is brought to you by Nutra Payments. Com if your business needs credit card processing that fully integrates with most major nutra software platforms, offers the lowest industry prices, and has built in features like recurring billing, $0 trials, and chargeback prevention. Then visit us at nutra. Payments.com for a free online quote. Yes. Well, and I think it’s exciting that, you know, the concept you’ve been talking about that food is medicine is really gaining traction. How do some of your products, like life, contribute to this movement?

Vic Cherikoff:  I guess,  with the conventional industry, they’re sort of saying, well, take supplements with the foods. That’s the only path that they can go.  I suppose,  I don’t agree with supplements.  there’s very few supplements that are worth actually taking in synthetic forms. B12 would be one of them, but, most of the others, I mean, you take a multivitamin tablet with B vitamins and whatever. it takes seconds to be peeing iridescent yellow, which means that your body has recognized that chemical concoction as just toxic and waste and is stripped through your body, taken out of your digestive system, taken out of the blood, through the liver, kidney, and you’re basically excreting it in seconds. it’s money down the toilet as far as I’m concerned. My concept is one of augmented nutrition.  That’s where wild foods come in. You can eat what you want to eat because of that, it is what we have in bulk and that’s what we’re used to. We can still buy conventional foods that are now impoverished nutritionally. often you have to moderate it by not eating too many sweet foods. I mean, interestingly, a mango can have 3% more coke, more sugar than a can of Coke or Pepsi. Okay, now that’s crazy. One mango by weight. You know, maybe you’re, just work at equal amounts of weight to weight. Mango to soft drinks can have 3% more sugars. Bad sugars in the mango. Same with things like pineapple and papaya or pawpaw.

Vic Cherikoff: You know, so many fruits are bred for their sweetness. I think in the US there’s now tomatoes or tomatoes that can have ridiculous amounts of sugar. I mean, what’s the point? You know, corn is another classic sweet corn. Candy corn is now again developed in the US just for its sugar content. Now all we’re doing there is poisoning ourselves. I coined the term bad sugars. I don’t think anyone else has really taken it up yet. But like bad fats and good fats, bad sugars, there’s only two bad sugars. That’s sucrose because it is half fructose and half glucose and fructose on its own. But so anything that’s high in fructose or sucrose becomes a source of bad sugar. agave nectar is really concentrated fructose. It’s not not recommended as a sweetener at all. It’s super sweet.  The fructose now is the causative agent where kids are now getting out. Whereas before it was only for, you know, rich old men that overindulged in wine and too much meat.  Now it’s literally women and kids who are getting out the same as, you know, more and more men as well. We need to look at what we’re eating in those sorts of, in the conventional foods. But if you can then simply augment your nutrition with wild foods, and that’s where my products come into it as well. either the health products or the component ingredients. But it’s easier on my health. I mean, my product that I call life, which stands for Lyophilized, means freeze dried Lyophilized Indigenous Food Essentials, and it took me a while to come up with that, but it works.

 Vic Cherikoff: It tells you exactly what it is. They are essential for life. They’re freeze dried and they’re indigenous to Australia and their food. it says it all. But life is a blend of 14 Australian wild foods, several new wild foods that are produced in Australia. But down in Tasmania, in our southern state, we still have a hole in the ozone layer. The farmers growing black currants measured the antioxidant capacity of their black currants and compared it to black currants growing anywhere else in the world. And because of the ozone layer, the plants are responding to that environment. Toxic effect, essentially by forming more antioxidants. What we use is not the juice of the red currant, but just the squashed remains. When the juice is pressed, we take the skins, the seeds, and effectively the, the mark of the red currant. And that’s what we freeze dry and put into life.  It’s a new wild plant because it’s now responding to its environmental,  growing characteristics and giving you a much more near wild quality food. That’s what we’re doing. We also add wild blueberries from Canada that go into our product and we freeze dry those. Acacia gum is a component as well, both of the herbs are active and we add some into life as well because it’s a brilliant fiber and it’s wild crafted in Africa.

Vic Cherikoff: There’s three wild or near wild foods from other countries. Then we pick a couple of other ingredients that are just there for  other elements that can complement what’s in wild food as well.  that’s a, it’s a nice way of then being able to give, I think there’s 27 ingredients all up in life to nutritionally augment whatever you eat. And so taking life once or twice a day allows us to overcome fatigue.  That feeling of just being down and like you’re sort of working through molasses basically is as the days get heavy. But it really tackles our stressful lifestyle. It also helps detoxify because we are living in a more toxic environment with all the chemicals around us. And  day to day stress obviously is still there. And over time. The interesting thing is, as you improve your diet with these phytonutrients, you change the population of and numbers of gut bugs. So, you know, the tens of millions of organisms in our gut, essentially dictate what we eat. If you get good bacteria growing in your gut, they then tell your brain, I want more of that. The same way as if you eat, you know, McDonald’s or, you know, whatever food is nutritionally deplete and you live on those sorts of foods, you get a population of microorganisms in your gut that tells your body and your brain, I want more McDonald’s, and that’s why it’s so popular.

Vic Cherikoff: It’s interesting also that they were driven by taste drives. I do write a lot about it in one of my books, Whole Foods is the title and the subtitle is Looking Back 60,000 years for Clues to Our Future Survival. And that’s what I’m all about these days. but it is interesting that taste drives for fat and sugar primarily, but also for Maillard products. There is a group of products that we find in cooked meat where the meats are on a barbecue, particularly in the browning of meat that forms Maillard products, or they are male art products, baked products, sometimes fermented products. You get male arts in things like, chocolate, coffee, roasted, toasted notes, baked foods, and so forth. We have a taste drive for those as well, because cooked food releases more of the nutrients than raw food. That’s why we like cooked foods so much. With those three taste drives, if you go in the wild for something sweet, you’re typically getting low sugar, fruits anyway. Or food. Sometimes its tree exudes things like sap that’s sweet or wild honey from either bees or ants in Australia. but by going for those sweet foods and, and responding to your gut drive and driving your brain for sweetness, you’re also getting fiber, you’re getting exercise. And even the wild honeys now. And not just, you go back and look at wild honeys rather than just sugar syrup.

Vic Cherikoff: They’re loaded with individual amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. They’re filled with waxes and other phytonutrients that are extremely potent. I did discover just how potent I spent three days, one time living with a family. An indigenous Australian family in central Australia. I didn’t take any food with me because I, you know, basically rely on finding something to eat. And often you, since you’re going out with the women, you almost invariably are going to get something to eat. But we actually only found wild honey. I was chopping these hives open and we found five hives all up. we fed ourselves. There was myself and a friend at the time, a family of three women and a whole bunch of kids. And we all lived off this wild honey for three days. And when I woke up, even the first day, I slept very soundly at night. Colored, very colorful dreams, I recall. But when I woke up, everything was crystal clear. I could see for ages. The sound that I could hear was all crackly and sharp. I was full of energy and for three days I literally was living on a high, as if I’d been on the, I don’t know, the very best narcotic drugs you can find. but really strong uppers. It was incredible. you can replace and re-experience that many times repeating but with just living on Wild Honey for a short while, it is rare.

Vic Cherikoff: We’re now starting to breed hives. And there’s, there’s people with hundreds of hives. but typically they’re selling the honey and leaving the pollen for the bees and so forth. But there’s another industry just in those. And the Australian native bees and interesting little stingless critters. You know, there’s an offshoot business there. In many ways I’ve created an industry, I’ve got chefs using the product. I have indigenous opportunities growing as well. I’ve found niches and markets for a lot of different people. I’ve been fairly generous with the information. I haven’t patented things like wattle seed, which I invented way back as a food flavor, and one particular wattle seed, roasted in just the right way and milled in the right way, will give you a flavor that’s almost coffee, chocolate, and hazelnut when you extract the flavor. So it’s brilliant in chocolate and white chocolate. It’s great in ice cream and cream and so on. We made the best wattle chino on the planet from that as well. So but, you know, I’ve not patented that. I’ve not restricted it. I just want to leave it out there and let everyone benefit. And then finally, the industry. Now we see that it’s a little bit on a, on a roller coaster and steam, a steam roller just moving through the food industry, through the health industry and so on. So I guess that’s been my main motivation for doing what I do. I must admit, I love being an entrepreneur.

 Bethany Jolley: Yes, yes. And I think with this industry that you’ve created, there’s probably a lot of challenges and opportunities. So how do you foresee promoting Australian wild foods on more of a global scale?

Vic Cherikoff: I guess I’m learning from where I was before. just pre-gfc I did actually license a range of recipes, to a company that then marketed in America, and we had 1600 outlets in America. We had all the Whole Foods markets, the Trader Joe’s, we had at the time, Wild Oats as well. Before Whole Foods bought them, um, we had a lot of private or smaller supermarket chains, uh, in Florida, in Texas and so forth, and it got great distribution. What my partners who basically licensed my recipes had done is that they worked on the distribution, but they didn’t spend a lot of time or money educating the customers. They were hoping that that would happen in stores with in-store demonstrations and this sort of stuff. The GFC hit, there was no one in the stores. And these guys, unfortunately, just through bad timing, went belly up. Interestingly, I still and this was what, 2007? I still get Americans emailing me saying we can’t find this sauce that we really liked, and we’re looking to give it away as a gift and use it ourselves. Where is it available? I’m sorry. It’s not anymore. It’s gone. there’s an opportunity there to resurrect it. but we are putting our toes back in the water. I’ve just got another deal with a customer of mine who’s been using my health products and introduced his mother, who was actually an MD, and she was a bit of a chore to get on board.

Vic Cherikoff: But after a whole heap of scientific papers, she saw the light and is now on the products as well for her health. but he’s come to me and said he wants to represent us in the US, and he’s got the structure and the ability to do it and the history with his other products. We’re looking at starting that up in the US again. And that literally is um, we’re just about waiting for the packaging we’ll be packing here with his labels and his designs and everything on the product. we’re packing and we’ll have at least two and then possibly four of the ingredients by the end of the year with the launch, I think, happening in June. So that’s all exciting. we’re gearing up for that. And the numbers are big. The numbers are great. I’m looking at managing that well. Uh, the herbal active, as I say, is already taking off through another avenue in the US and also in the UK and Australia. Um, so in a way, I’ve narrowed my focus. Um, I have fewer things to think about. I work from home, which is terrific. I’ve got a factory here in Sydney, uh, with a staff who look after it. Um, and so I’m working hard now, working on the business, not in it.

Vic Cherikoff: looking at really following the passion where it takes me. But being very, very specific, I’m saying no to more customers, people. I mean, one of the big trends is vodka, gin and most of the spirits distillers wanting to use native flavors and native botanicals. I’ve not yet met a distributor, a distiller who knows how to take some of these flavors appropriately out. And having tasted the whole range of what’s out there, there is no gin or vodka that delivers the flavors that I would want to taste of the native flavors. They might be in there and I know I’m selling them some product, but I’m saying no to more distillers than I’m saying yes to because, um, the easiest way to get the flavors is to actually post blend flavors into a finished product. Not rely on the distillation process to be able to handle a product like lemon myrtle, for example, where the aromatics evaporate at 40 degrees C, and think that that’s going to work with your distillation when you also have to pull out, you know, the flavors of juniper, for example, in a gin, which is a much lower temperature much higher temperature range. It’s a fairly resistant aromatic to come out of the, out of the gin, out of the juniper berries. you know, you can’t easily  put a whole mix of herbs and fruits and other things and get a decent flavor. 

Vic Cherikoff: At the end of the day, you may as well have a lemon myrtle flavored or a while, say, a rainforest infused gin, and then put the flavors in there, in their appropriate extract forms. We can do that very easily with very simple preparations. You know, there’s all sorts of challenges there, but I’m ignoring things that are simple steps to get to a finished product, but would take my time and not be anywhere near as big or as impactful or as significant or as rewarding for me personally as my health, food range and my herbal activity. I’m focusing on just those two paths, narrowing down my scattergun approach that I had in the past where I had to do everything to just survive in the tough years. Now it’s more of a business. I’ve been lucky as well, being able to crowdfund certain elements of the business. The life product itself was crowdfunded, and one of my major contributors was an Indigenous Australian fellow that just loved what I do. He funded a lot of the early work on that in the formulation. It’s great. It’s a nice environment to be working with, in this day and age.

Bethany Jolley: Yes, absolutely. Well, once again, a big thank you to Vic Cherikoff for offering a fascinating glimpse into the power and potential of Australian wild foods and the food industry. And beyond that, his work not only pays homage to ancient traditions, but also paves the way for future innovations and health, cuisine and sustainable practices. To learn more about Vic’s work and Australian functional ingredients, check out the links provided in our episode description. Thank you for joining us on this journey through the vibrant world of nutraceuticals. Don’t forget to subscribe and share your thoughts on today’s episode on social media. Stay tuned for more insightful discussions here on Nutra Preneur.