Beerenberg founder Grant Paech in his strawberry fields at Hahndorf.Grant Lester Paech - Founder of Beerenberg, Hahndorf

Parents:   Hermann Christian Paech and Leslie Alexandra Paech
Born:   5 December 1940, Mount Barker, SA
Married:   Carol (nee Lawler) 1966
Children:   Robert, Anthony and Sally
Died:  21 September 2015, Hahndorf, SA

Extracts from newspaper articles concerning his life and death follow:

Vale Grant Paech

The Courier – Editorial 23 September 2015

The death of Beenenberg founder Grant Paech on Monday gives us all a reason to not only celebrate a wonderful life but to also acknowledge a man who combined two rare traits – an outstanding work ethic and a sharp mind open to opportunity.

Mr Paech and his wife Carol developed an internationally recognised company from  a backyard strawberry patch in a corner of their diary farm and a roadside stall selling homemade jam.  They might have remained struggling farmers were it not for Mr Paech’s ability to both recognise and seize an opportunity to develop a business which would ultimately change the lives of hundreds of people for the better.

Now under the tutelage of his three children Robert (farm manager), Anthony (managing director) and Sally (marketing manager), Beerenberg has expanded to manufacture much more than jams – which it exports to 25 countries – and its range now includes sauces and condiments.

A story in this edition of The Courier reveals how the company is now expanding into selling exclusive high-end tableware.  It is a business that is moving forward and looking for opportunities – just as its founder would have done.  Yet despite its modern global reach and influence, its roots are firmly entrenched in the Hahndorf community.

The Paech family has been living in Hahndorf for six generations and the business has a philanthropic arm which injects money and enthusiasm back into the historic town where it reigns as a local hero.  It provides many jobs and the massive $14m expansion to develop a distribution centre, warehouse and factory upgrade, which is underway behind the current factory, is a testament to the strong ties Beerenberg has to Hahndorf. 

Most households have a jar of a Beerenberg product tucked away in the pantry.  So, even though it may have sat there untouched for months, now is the time to dust off the lid and remember a man who had a massive impact on his local community, a significant impact on SA and who played an important role in helping to place Australia’s food industry onto the international stage.  So let’s toast the life of Grant Paech – with a piece of toast and a delicious jam, of course.

Beerenberg Founder Dies

The Courier, by Lisa Pahl – 23 September 2015

The founder of Hahndorf ’s iconic Beerenberg Farm, Grant Paech, has died aged 74. Mr Paech died on Monday after a long battle with a neurological illness.

A former dairy farmer, Mr Paech built the family’s jam, condiment and sauce company from a roadside stall selling jam he made on his kitchen stove at home into a national household name.  Beerenberg now makes 77 products and exports to 25 countries.

Mr Paech was instrumental in pioneering the “pick your own” strawberry movement in Australia and secured a deal to supply airline Qantas with jam.

Grant and Carol Paech with jars of their strawberry jam at Beerenberg Farm in Hahndorf in 2003.He ran the business with wife Carol until handing the reins to their children Anthony, Robert and Sally in 1998, but remained involved until 2010.

Son Anthony, Beerenberg’s managing director, said his father was a “true pioneer and innovator” in the SA food industry.  “My father combined his passion for his family and the farm by building a family food business firmly rooted in the rich Adelaide Hills land which the Paechs have held since 1840,” he said.  “He was a natural entrepreneur and a great character and I know he was very proud of where Beerenberg is today.”

A descendant of original Hahndorf settlers, Mr Paech’s entrepreneurial experience began at age 10 selling mushrooms from a roadside stall opposite the current Beerenberg shop and factory.

After studying at Roseworthy Agricultural College, Mr Paech joined his father on the family dairy farm.  But in 1967 he planted his first patch of strawberries, with wife Carol selling the fruit at her work.

Over the next five years strawberry production grew to a commercial scale, with a packing shed and roadside fruit stall added in 1971.

After finding himself with an oversupply of strawberries that same year, Mr Paech asked his mother if she could make him some strawberry jam.  She responded by giving him her stewing pan and a copy of the Green and Gold Cookery Book.  Mr Paech’s first batch – 12 jars made on the stove at home and marked with handwritten labels – sold out at the farm shop the next day.

Fruit stall  -  He saw the potential and set about planning his expansion into jam-making straight away.

In 1974 Mr Paech sold his dairy cows and milk round to buy a fruit stall in the Adelaide Central Markets.

The business continued to grow and in 1987 it signed a deal to supply Qantas with mini portions of jam – an arrangement that continues today.  Mr Paech secured his first export deal in 1988.

He is survived by wife Carol, children Anthony, Robert and Sally and six grandchildren.

Iconic jam company founder dies

The Advertiser - 21 September, 2015

Grant Paech, founder of SA company Beerenberg, in strawberry fields next to his factory at Hahndorf.The man who made South Australia famous for its jam, Grant Lester Paech, of Beerenberg, has died, aged 74.  Mr Paech succumbed to a lengthy struggle with neurological illness early Monday morning.

His family business — based at the 100ha Beerenberg fields, kitchen and farmgate shop in Hahndorf and now internationally famous not only for jams, condiments and sauces — is overseen by his children, Robert, Anthony, and Sally Paech.

About 44 years ago, Mr Paech, a strawberry farmer, decided to cook up some leftover strawberries on his electric stove.  He made enough jam for about a dozen pots which sold out in the packing shed the next day.  It was the beginning of a business that soon turned into a national household brand exporting products to 25 countries.  Mr Paech also was a pioneer of the pick-your-own-strawberries concept in Australia, and his mini jam jars were the first to appear on international Qantas flights.

Mr Paech got his first taste of business aged 10, selling mushrooms from a roadside stall.  He planted the first patch of strawberries next to the Paech family home in 1967 and began selling them from a roadside stall in 1971.

In 1988, Mr Paech negotiated Beerenberg’s first export deal — to Japan.  Today the company produces 77 products, and has recently added complementary tableware to the farmgate shop.

Mr Paech’s son, Anthony, Beerenberg Managing Director, said his father was a true pioneer and innovator in the South Australian food industry.  He said his passion for family and the farm led him to build the business “firmly rooted in the Adelaide Hills land which the Paech’s have held since 1840”.  “He was a natural entrepreneur and a great character and I know he was very proud of where Beerenberg is today,” said Anthony.

Mr Paech Snr handed the reins of Beerenberg Farm to his children in 1998, but was active in the business until he was overtaken by debilitating illness in 2010.  His other son, Robert, is farm manager and daughter Sally is marketing manager.  Mr Paech is also survived by wife Carol, 71, and six grandchildren.

Humble man’s life jam-packed with success

The Advertiser - 22 September 2015 (Dianne Mattsson-Food Writer)

Strawberry fields forever live in the hearts of South Australian families, thanks to an accidentally brilliant pot of jam and a food pioneer behind the pick-your-own-fruit concept.  That pioneer, Beerenberg’s Grant Paech, died early on Monday, aged 74, after a lengthy struggle with a neurological illness.

Paech FamilyToday, his family and friends are recalling stories about the man they describe as one of the best storytellers of all.

Mr Paech, creator of the South Australian household brand, Beerenberg, now an international company, was regarded as strong and formidable as a boss, “and as a parent”, but also a true character ever ready with a funny tale to tell.  “He was a lot of fun, and a bit of a ratbag,” says daughter Sally, who remembers his practical jokes as well as his stern side because “he cared about things being done right, particularly at work”.

The Paech family patriarch passed the reins of Beerenberg to his children, Robert (farm manager), Anthony (managing director), and Sally Paech (marketing manager) in 1998, but was active in the business until 2010.

Their funny storyteller dad’s own life is one of this state’s greatest tales of success.  He was the great-great grandson of Johann George Paech, a farmer and devout Lutheran who emigrated from Poland to Australia in 1838.  Johann was one of the first settlers founding the Adelaide Hills village they named Hahndorf.  The family connection to this hills community has never faltered, and today, the now-international Beerenberg company’s key base, 100ha of fields, kitchen and farmshop, remain entrenched in Hahndorf.  The family’s history has featured widely, and with affection, in many SA stories and in a charming family history book and cookbook, Berry Hill, Grant and Sally wrote together.

Grant Paech was first touched with the entrepreneurial bug at age 10, when he scooped precious change from sales at his little mushroom stall, directly across from where the Beerenberg shop and factory stand today.  He later studied at Roseworthy Agricultural College, and in 1963 joined his father in dairy farming. But the determined dad and son had very different ideas.  His father saw farming as a way of life, says Sally, Grant loved farming as a business.

Grant Paech stirs fig jam as it cooks. (date unknown)In 1964, Grant met Carol Lawler at a dance at Norwood Town Hall.  They were married in 1966, and the following year Grant planted the first patch of strawberries next to their own Hahndorf home.  He sold them in the best way he knew, from a roadside stall.  Two years later the patch spread to a field behind that house and those 7200 plants yielded luscious fruit that was a local hit.  The family would sit at a table shaded by pine trees and pack strawberries into punnets.  The next year, a packing shed was built, then more strawberry blocks were planted.  Nailing that new packing shed together, people driving by would stop and ask to buy the produce.  Grant realised the potential for a roadside shop.

It was in 1971, when Grant found himself with some extra jam strawberries.  He asked his mum to make some strawberry jam for him, and she promptly handed Grant her stewing pan and the Green and Gold Cookery Book.  So, Grant made jam on his own electric stove.  The next day, the batch of 12 jams with handwritten labels sold out in the packing shed.  Again, and most famously, Grant saw the opportunity, and the real success story began.

Finally, in 1974, Grant’s dairy cows and milk round were sold, and the proceeds went into fruit stalls in Adelaide’s Central Market, and the East End market.  Grant was market salesman on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  He took strawberries packed in punnets in cardboard trays of 20, loading the family station wagon at 3.30am, arriving at the market before dawn.  Grant became known as The Strawberry King.  He sold strawberries, cream, fruit and vegetables bought from merchants in the market.  The strawberries were sold under the ‘Willow Island’ label after the little island in the middle of the farm’s main dam, but the threat of legal action from an Australian manufacturer claiming rights to use the word Willow forced a rethink.  Beerenberg, which translates to “Berry Hill” became the new name.

Grant Paech with former SA premier John Bannon, on-board a Qantas plane — to mark the Qantas decision to serve locally produced Beerenberg jams and honey in the mid-80s.In 1985, Carol pointed out a newspaper article reporting Premier John Bannon’s visit to Singapore.  Noticing that first class passengers on Qantas were served small jars of jam made in Scotland, Mr Bannon said it was a pity the airline did not use a good Australian jam.  In 1987 the Beerenberg mini jam-jar deal with Qantas was signed — and continues today.  A major deal for cottage packs supplied to a Japanese catering company followed, and today the company exports to 25 countries.

It’s a colourful history of “a true pioneer and innovator in the South Australian food industry” says son Anthony.  He said his dad’s passion for his family and the farm meant the business would be forever rooted in the rich Adelaide Hills, “on land which the Paech’s have held since 1840”.  Anthony believes his parents, who worked well together, created a family treasure.

His mother, Carol, 71, still works in the Beerenberg admin and finance.  “They started with nothing, and they never spent anything on themselves,” says Anthony. “Everything went back into the business.”  He describes 30 years of retained business funds as a fantastic legacy.

It was mostly an all-work-little-play simple lifestyle for Grant and Carol, but Sally also remembers the scallywag practical jokes.  “He once got me to crawl under the table and tie my Uncle Bryant’s shoelaces together.  When Uncle Bryant got up, he fell over, and dad thought it was hilarious.”

Anthony Paech says that as a young man his dad had a benign tumour removed from his brain. He recovered, only suffering difficulty with his balance “but as he got older he deteriorated mentally as well”.  Grant was admitted to the Royal Adelaide Hospital with pneumonia last Wednesday.  He recovered somewhat but died at the St Paul’s nursing home at Hahndorf, at 2.30am Monday morning.

Grant Paech is survived by wife Carol, Anthony, Robert, Sally and six grandchildren.

Country lad who built Beerenberg

The Advertiser – Weekend Extra – Tributes 17 October 2015

GRANT LESTER PAECH Founder of Beerenberg  Born: December 5, 1940; Mount Barker  Died: September 21, 2015; Hahndorf

GRANT’s forebears arrived in SA in 1839 and founded Paechtown, near Hahndorf, where the family has been firmly established ever since.

He was born to Hermann and Lex Paech, who ran a 100 hectare dairy farm in the area.  Young Grant was put to work milking cows dawn and dusk, from the age of 11, before and after school.

Grant had a country lad’s upbringing.  On his first visit to the Royal Adelaide Show he said “hello” to everyone that passed until his friends said that was stupid in the city.

He met Carol at a dance in Adelaide in 1964 and they married in 1966.

Grant completed a diploma of agriculture at Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1960, and had become interested in growing strawberries using plastic film over mulch.  It gave weed control, moisture retention, and enabled the strawberries to be harvested without getting dirty.  He planted 10 rows on good soil around his and Carol’s newly constructed home as an experiment.

At first, Carol picked the strawberries and sold the punnets at her work in Adelaide, but the following year the area was expanded to 0.3 hectares, and they hired labour to help with picking and sales.

In November 1970 Grant was building a packing shed next to the road when a car drew up and the driver asked if he could buy strawberries.  Grant added a roadside shop to one side of the shed.

Soon strawberries were selling by the tray.  Armed with the Green and Gold cookbook, he began cooking jam at home.  Their brand was Willow Island at first but the name was already taken and a German-speaker suggested Beerenberg, or Hill and Berry.

The going wasn’t easy.  Grant combined strawberry growing with a local milk round and dairy farming and was barely making a living. He experimented with other crops, from potatoes to cherries, and in 1973 switched from dairy to beef cattle.

He gradually expanded the product range of jams and relishes.  He pioneered pick-your own strawberries, and found new markets with mini-jars and foil packs for hotels and airlines.  Beerenberg became a household name in Australia, its products available in most supermarkets in the nation, as well as export markets.

This year it announced a $14 million expansion of its facilities at Hahndorf.

Grant, who suffered from a neurological disorder in his later years, handed over the reins of the business to his son Anthony in 2007, and is survived by Carol, children Anthony, Robert and Sally, and six grandchildren.