2 July 2024

Buon appetito! Roma Foods rolls out exports in Southeast Asia

Consumers across Southeast Asia can now enjoy gluten-free pasta.

Roma Foods is one of Australia’s largest free-from product manufacturers, producing high-quality alternative grain foods. The company is now growing exports in Southeast Asia, thanks to its Pasta roma! gluten-free products.

Founded in 1953, Roma Foods combines Italian passion with Australian production. It owns a portfolio of brands including Orgran, Buontempo, Spliits, Pasta roma! and Freemills. The 100% Australian-owned company employs 100 staff in Southeast Melbourne.

In the early 1990s, Roma Foods began exploring exports to the US, UK and Italy. Today, the company exports to more than 50 markets across 7 continents including South America, Europe and Oceania.

‘We recognised that Roma had a niche offering,’ says Max Buontempo, Roma Foods’ Managing Director. ‘Exporting gave us the opportunity to grow our sales and reduce reliance on the Australian market alone.

‘Our exporting journey has been strengthened by Austrade’s knowledge, presence and coordination of international opportunities.’

Gluten-free pasta twirls through to mainstream

Pasta roma! supports a growing demand for high-quality, gluten-free pasta. Formerly a niche product for a niche consumer, gluten-free products are becoming more available. In Australia, Coles, Foodworks, IGA and Woolworths stock Pasta roma!’s gluten-free pasta in the main pasta aisle.

‘Pasta roma! is the new kid on the block,’ says Matt O’Brien, Head of Sales, Roma Foods. ‘It’s an alternative pasta with authentic taste and texture.’

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats that can cause an immune reaction in people with coeliac disease. Pasta roma! vegan, plant-based product is made from local rice and sun-ripened corn. Free from allergens, it contains no gluten, wheat, egg, nut, dairy, yeast or soy. Allergens such as eggs or nuts are not permitted onsite.

‘Everyone deserves access to high-quality allergen-free products,’ says O’Brien. ‘We aim to provide that access as much as possible including to our nearest neighbours.’

A bowl of pasta.

Roma Foods’ gluten-free pasta is winning new customers in Southeast Asia.

Austrade supports export journey to Southeast Asia

Austrade has supported Roma Foods with data and insights that validate the opportunity in ‘free-from’ products. For a family business, travel and market visits can be costly and time-consuming. With the right data, Roma Foods can focus its efforts on markets where there is demand for gluten-free products.

In 2019, Roma Foods started exporting to Thailand. Austrade introduced the company to Lotus's as part of its in-market servicing and brand exposure. Lotus’s Thailand is a retail business with more than 10 million customers per week. Austrade also provided technical guidance around Safe Quality Food (SQF) standards and lab-testing analysis.

In Indonesia, Austrade has been providing technical support around halal standards. While it is an extensive process, Indonesia presents a growing opportunity for the Pasta roma! brand.

‘Exporting has ultimately allowed us to expand and improve our production,’ says Buontempo. ‘In doing so, we are more agile and competitive both at home and abroad.’

Austrade supports Roma Foods to promote its brands and growing export sales through market activation campaigns such as Taste of Australia 2023. The campaign showcased Australian food and beverage, hosted by Australian-Vietnamese celebrity chef Luke Nguyen. Through profiling, samples and an Austrade introduction, Roma achieved growth on its existing brands and a new listing for Pasta roma!.

Roma Foods continues to focus its international efforts on Pasta roma!. In addition to Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, the gluten-free pasta range is available in Malaysia and Singapore with further expansion across Southeast Asia planned.

Future plans

Beyond Southeast Asia, Roma is exploring export opportunities in India, China and the Middle East.

In India, exports will be supported by the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (AI-ECTA). The AI-ECTA includes tariff reductions for a range of products and will increase the competitiveness of Roma Food’s products in the Indian market.

‘I've loved the journey of working with Austrade,’ says Faye Kuai, Roma Food’s Export Support Officer. ‘It has unlocked so many doors, allowing us to enter markets with our eyes wide open. We are looking forward to Fine Foods Australia and working with Austrade to showcase Australia’s high-quality food and beverage products.’

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