Livelihoods are at stake: Consumers need to shake up their rituals and start buying local


Via Porta co-founders and brothers Ryan, Jonathon and Simon Cosentino. Source: Facebook.

I’ve changed jams. Which, for me, is no small thing.

Breakfast is a daily comfort-food ritual between my eight-year-old Max and me, which we act out daily like a dance. Think: scrambled eggs with a dusting of salt and a piece of sourdough, toasted, with butter, melted… and jam.

After years of together enjoying the same French brand of jam, the cloistering of my Melbourne life to a 5km radius forced a rethink.

As the pandemic grinds on, it will continue to mess with supply chains, and by extension, with our very identity.

The things we relied on will no longer be there. For a short time, or forever. These might be things that used to define us.

It is no surprise then, that as consumers, we have begun to more closely examine the ‘where’ in what we buy.

In my daily work, helping Australia’s innovators and highly motivated entrepreneurs start and sustain their businesses, I see that the cruelling from this pandemic is very real and is becoming more so each day.

There are cries to support our locals, and why not?

We have a narrow window in which to get fully behind them ahead of the JobKeeper changes slated for next month when insolvency rates — currently at well under half of their 2019 rates — will surely change.

After this time, it will be up to us, more and more, not the government, to determine how the final stages of the pandemic play out for businesses.

I didn’t personally know the makers of my old jam.

I read on Wikipedia that they’re based in the south-west of France, which really is a charming part of the world. Opening a jar of their confiture d’abricot takes me right back there, which had always been part of the attraction.

That the brand is part of a global, family-owned company making juice, sweets and ready-made meals from more than 30 factories was an interesting discovery that I only made as I researched more closely how my own modesty utility with keeping local businesses alive plays out.

My new jam is made by Jonathon Cosentino. He’s a young man, quietly spoken and reflective.

Last week, his cafe and deli Via Porta in Mont Albert lost an awful lot of money thanks to stage four COVID-19 restrictions. He runs the cafe with his two brothers, Simon and Ryan.

I see the all too familiar pain in the back of his eyes as we talk through his survival tactics for the coming weeks. Online orders. Business to business sales. Food bundles. Redistribution models.

My old jam was named after a grandma. Jonathon and his brothers have also called on the comforting memory of their Nonna when naming their products — a woman they held in awe as she created amazing meals from a few simple ingredients in the Coburg backyard of their childhood.

My new jam is more expensive. But it’s better.

I recommend the apricot/amorino over the strawberry/blood orange. I bought both.

Because it’s up to me — and you — to see Jonathon win this thing.

It’s not just his livelihood at stake. It’s the capital invested. And the debt servicing. And knowing that if he loses this, he may never get to do it again.

And that would be a very bad thing for all of us.

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