Unprecedented local demand for rice has seen Sunshine Coast food exporter Belladotti increase their focus on the domestic market during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Coolum manufacturer’s Pre Mix Risotto products have been flying off the shelves at Queensland supermarkets since COVID-19 disrupted international supply chains for rice.

The company is hopeful the dramatic rise in sales will see its products spread from Queensland stores to supermarkets nationwide.

Belladotti co-owner and co-founder Marco Guidotti said it had been a case of ‘right time, right place’ for his company.

‘It’s been strong domestic demand for rice, which sold out, that’s driven our growth – the shelves were empty at Woolworths and Coles and we picked up the slack of all that,’ Mr Guidotti said.

‘Our hand-made small-batch Pre Mix Risotto is our flagship product and we can’t keep up with demand, which is a testament to its quality and our ability to bring speciality products to the market at “big factory” low prices.’

Belladotti employs 8 staff at its Coolum Beach factory on the Sunshine Coast, where it makes and packs all its products using local suppliers where possible.

The company has added 2 casual staff to help keep up with demand, rolling out 3,000–4,000 units of products per production run.

Belladotti exports its gourmet convenience products to a number of countries across the Asia-Pacific region, including New Zealand.

As well as looking at local expansion, the company is still working with TIQ to pursue new international deals, despite the disruptions caused by COVID-19.

‘TIQ put us onto opportunities in Singapore and the UAE,’ Mr Guidotti said.

‘In Singapore, we’ve sent a mixed pallet order to a new client and in the UAE we’re currently in discussion with Aussie Multibrands, who supply over 100 Australian brands into retail markets in the region.’

Principal Trade and Investment Officer for TIQ Sunshine Coast Ross Tilly said Belladotti’s ability to ramp up operations to meet domestic demand while exploring international markets was impressive.

‘Seeing products made on the Sunshine Coast being embraced by global consumers is fantastic,’ Mr Tilly said.

‘Hopefully Belladotti’s efforts will inspire our local producers during these difficult times.

‘TIQ is committed to looking after regional businesses and to helping them navigate the business impacts of the pandemic.’

Mr Guidotti said the surge in domestic demand had not been limited to the company’s risotto.

‘Out of our 27 products, which also include Salad Toppers and gluten-free pasta, sales for half are up, and we’re on track for 20% growth this year,’ he said.

‘We’ve now had a strong positive response coming from our supermarket partner at Woolworths … and we’re hoping our products might get rolled out Australia-wide.

‘My wife and I started Belladotti with a view to supplying a few local stores on the Sunshine Coast, and now we’re supplying well over 1,000 stores across 5 countries.

‘Our staff are like a family, so I’m thrilled that we’ve managed to keep people employed and families going during this time.’

Supporting Queensland exporters is a priority under the Queensland Trade and Investment Strategy 2017–2022.

You can learn more about the support available to exporters affected by the COVID-19 pandemic on our TIQ industry recovery package page.