Barbell Foods: Adventure, Authenticity and Biltong

When it comes to businesses that demonstrate a strong brand ethos, it’s hard to look past Canberra’s famous biltong.

With a strong sense of adventure, a love of the outdoors and a DIY attitude, we had a chat to Luke Rathbone, Co-Founder and CEO of Barbell Foods.

“We’re a health food company specialising in meat snacks for busy and active people.” Said Luke.

Barbell Foods is a young Canberra startup founded in a garage by four friends with common passion for health, movement and the outdoors.

“They say not to go into business with your family or friends, but we’ve broken both those rules. Because of that, we have an incredibly trusting and open relationship between the four of us.”

“Tom used to help me with my statistic assignments at Uni, so I knew he’d be the perfect human calculator for the business. Matt has a background in nutrition and once drank two litres of milk in one go, so I knew I could trust him with the food science. Rory looks good without a shirt on, so naturally he’s the face of our marketing. And I like to take credit for their hard work, so I call myself the CEO.”

Gaining inspiration from their childhood growing up on the South African Coast, brothers Rory and Luke together with friends Matt and Tom, made their own biltong to fuel their adventures.

Biltong is a traditional South African food, where steaks are marinated, spiced and hung to dry in a controlled environment for about 10 days with no heat or cooking in the process.

The business has grown over the past three years from humble beginnings at Canberra markets to moving into a purpose built facility in Hume.

A big shift in the business emerged two years ago when the team were approached by a large supplier in the beef industry who was interested in the company. Although the deal was unsuccessful, it started the cogs in motion.

“The rejection got us thinking. If the big players were interested, we might be onto something. This was our lightbulb moment and inspired us to raise capital to scale the business.”

Scrolling through their Instagram, it’s clear that the brand is aligned with the real lives of the team. The content is raw, authentic and a little bit silly.

“Authenticity is something that came very naturally to us when we started. As we’ve grown, we’ve come to realise that people want to feel a genuine connection with brands and the business owners.“

Also through their marketing and social media, it’s clear that Canberra plays a large role in the character of the brand.

“Being in Canberra, surrounded by nature and our families has allowed us to recharge our batteries when needed. We live in an amazing city but it’s the community around us that is most important.“

Barbell Food’s Biltong can be found all over Canberra. For more information visit their website.

Do you have a story we should feature?