This year marks the 120th anniversary of Queen, one of Australia’s oldest and most loved baking brands. For many Australian families, that’s 120 years of home baking, sharing happiness and making memories with Queen.
Established in 1897, the name ‘Queen’ was inspired by Queen Victoria’s love for vanilla. Created in a time where bread puddings and tea cakes reigned supreme, Queen has stood the test of time and now holds prime position in the pantries of home bakers, artisan bakeries and professional master chefs alike.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
For all of us here at Queen, this special milestone is a reason to celebrate and reflect on many years of unforgettable moments. So, let’s take a trip down memory lane and discover the story behind those little bottles in your pantry.
Our very first Queen Vanilla was made way back in the early 1900s. It was a pure vanilla extract, which we used to call ‘essence’ in a small glass bottle. Our founders, Pharmacists Mr Taylor and Mr Colledge, also mastered a range of extracts, tonics, fragrances and lotions. At the time, fresh food and baking ingredients were hard to come by as they were delivered by ship from London. Home bakers relied on Queen to add flavour and excitement to their recipes.
Queen Flavouring Essences were a must-have pantry necessity from their release in the early 1900s. Historically, the term ‘Essence’ meant a highly concentrated form of pure extract. Lemon Essence for instance, contained alcohol and lemon oil to create a highly concentrated pronounced flavour that was the secret of all housewives and made good cooking a certainty.
With the passing of time, modern recipes started calling for ‘Extract’, so the labels of our pure natural essences were changed to reflect modern terminology. Even today, recipes passed down through generations of family list Queen ‘Essences’, so just remember, Queen Essences and Extracts are the same.
Retro Queen print advert
Food Colouring & Decorations
Recognising the international trend of adding colour to food, it made sense not only to produce Queen Flavouring Essences, but also Queen Cake and Confectionary Colour, and in time, Queen Decorations – a complete cake inside and out.
The little bottles of water-based liquid food colouring you have your pantry today aren’t much different from the original recipe developed in the early 1900s. You might however remember they used to be glass.
“Our first plastic bottle was made in Australia in February 1999. It was sturdy, light and home bakers never had to worry about glass breaking in the kitchen again. Even today we still make our own plastic bottles”, said Tom Himstedt, General Manager Production.
The rise of bold and colourful rainbow cakes in the early 2000s saw the development of Food Colour Gels designed to give professional quality results at home. Queen gels are approximately twice the colour intensity of our water-based liquid colours and achieve brilliance and clarity of colour without the addition of a lot of unnecessary liquid. We gladly waved goodbye to brown and faded cakes.
Queen Essence and Food Colouring range from 1993
The story of Queen Vanilla is one we hold close to our hearts. Here at Queen, Vanilla is our world and our reason for being. In the years that followed the development of our very first Queen Vanilla, our founders worked on their increasingly popular vanilla essence recipe to finally master a cold extracted blend of vanilla that contained vanilla pods sourced from across the globe. This blend became the signature Queen blend and our iconic red label vanilla essence-extract was born.
As generations of home bakers across Australia grew to love vanilla in their recipes, a cyclone hit Madagascar, our key vanilla growing region. The vanilla farms were devastated and as were we, for the impact it had on the lives of the farmers we had come to work very closely with. It was from this point that our focus turned to partnering with growers and industry associations such as Fairtrade and Australian Certified Organic to produce vanilla that is sustainable and fair. Read the full Queen Vanilla Story.
Although the vines fully recovered, the cyclone created a vanilla shortage in the years that followed, as well as a greater appreciation for good quality vanilla. It was this appreciation that sparked the creation of our Vanilla Bean Paste.
“Vanilla in paste form provided a perfect alternative to using vanilla beans, which at the time were scarce. It took a couple of years to create the exact vanilla profile. We wanted to create a product that would broaden vanilla bean use beyond just sweet baking and into other creative cooking”, said Sam Himstedt, General Manager Sales, Marketing, Technical.
After the involvement of many culinary experts, the first little jar came onto the market in 2004. A year later in 2005, Queen won the International Food Exhibition award in London for the most Innovative New Food product.
Queen print advert from 2004 featuring Vanilla Bean Paste
“Many may not realise that a jar of vanilla bean paste takes years to produce. It starts some two to three years prior from a single flower from a vanilla vine being pollinated. After nine months of growing, plus a further four months of curing, the bean makes its way to Queen to undergo the traditional queen extraction technique, which also takes months.
We take pride in knowing where our vanilla comes from and regularly travel the world to share our knowledge to improve farmers’ livelihoods and select the best quality vanilla available for our products”, said Sam.
Queen Fine Foods Joint Managing Director Fred Himstedt recalls his favourite memory from visiting the vanilla farms:
“In many parts of the world vanilla plantations are small lot family farms in third world countries. They provide a very important economic activity in remote areas, but in many ways, they are much more than a business. They are a way or life, they are generational and they bring villages closer together with sharing of techniques and skills and marketing of their produce. They live and breathe sustainability, as they want to leave their land in a better condition for their kids. The people we meet are most generous in making you feel welcome and sharing what they have, and are always proud showing their plantation, curing processes, and produce.
But really my favourite memory has nothing to do with vanilla. It was a hot day in Vava’u Tonga and one of the farmers sons must have seen I was struggling in the heat. He climbed a coconut tree, chopped the top off a green coconut with a bush knife and provided me with a beautifully refreshing drink”, said Fred.
All three Himstedt brothers grew up surrounded by vanilla. They recall it was the 100ml red label vanilla essence that was used in family recipes at home, reminiscing on creamed rice pudding and chocolate milkshakes with plenty of vanilla.
“I loved chocolate milkshakes, but a chocolate milkshake is much better when vanilla extract is added. I still make them today for the kids, and vanilla is still the essential ingredient”, said Fred.
Queen print advert featuring our iconic red label vanilla
Our 120th Anniversary Master Blend Pure Vanilla Extract
To celebrate our 120th Anniversary, we have released a beautiful vanilla extract inspired by the original little red bottle you’ve grown up with. This incredibly special, limited edition Master Blend Pure Vanilla Extract culminates our long heritage in vanilla.
We’ve honed the craft of vanilla extraction over these years, passed it down through generations of master brewers and finally in our 120th year, have found the perfect moment to create the vanilla extract we’ve always dreamed of, for your baking pleasure. Read more about our Master Blend Pure Vanilla Extract.
We invite you to celebrate with us and treat yourself to this sensory taste experience. Our Master Blend Pure Vanilla Extract is worthy of your very best baking.
Your Baking Memories
“I remember the vanilla in the bottle and yellow label sitting in my mum’s pantry if you could call it a pantry more like a cupboard. My goodness what memories, thank you Queen.”
“My mother always used Queen Vanilla in her baking. I remember the yellow label bottle of vanilla and food colourings in her cupboard with the other baking ingredients. I today, love using the Queen Natural Vanilla Concentrated Extract, as well as Queen’s flavouring extracts and food colourings when baking. And knowing Queen Fine Foods in a company situated in Alderly, Brisbane here in Queensland is something your company should be very proud of. Thank you Queen.”
“Didn’t know any other brand existed…the one and only in our family for many generations and many to come!”
“I so well remember my mum using Queen vanilla…whenever I see the bottle I am reminded of her.”
Belinda Jeffery – Author, Delicious contributer, TV personality
From all of us here at Queen, thank you for helping us reach our 120th anniversary. Please pass on our thanks to Mum, Grandma and Great Grandma for baking with us too.
Look out for our 120th Anniversary Recipe eBook set to launch at the end of the month, it’s full of beautiful classic recipes passed from one generation to another to share with your loved ones.
Join the Queen Baking Club for more vanilla news, recipes and tutorials and keep up with us on Instagram and Facebook. Baked something using Queen Vanilla, Extracts or Colours? Tag us in your photos with #queenvanilla and #queenbaking
From our family to yours, we thank you for baking with us!
The Queen Team