Name: Diem Fuggersberger
Job: Co-founder of Berger Ingredients and Coco & Lucas' Kitchen
Arrived from Vietnam, 1980
I’m the co-founder of Berger Ingredients and Coco & Lucas’ Kitchen. We make seasonings and food flavourings for meat, smallgoods and ready-made children’s meals. I started the business in 2009, only weeks after we (my husband and I) lost our company and home to GFC. We owed $900,000 to suppliers and our workers. It was a terrible time for our family, but somehow we made it through.
I built Berger Ingredients and Coco & Lucas’s Kitchen from the ground up without any formal training. I learnt how to do everything - market myself, build a brand and social media. I’m not a marketer or worked in food, so everything was new and challenging. My business is Australian owned and manufactured, uses local Australian ingredients and employs only Australian residents. I don’t import any ingredients and only export my products. I feel like I owe the country a debt of gratitude, be a good citizen and give back in any way I can.
I’m incredibly passionate and always asking myself about my purpose before starting a new project. My goal is to give Australian kids healthy, honest choices in food and be a champion for kids’ health and wellbeing. I want mums to trust my food and me because my company is about the children and their future, not just profits. My legacy will be putting children’s health first.
My family and I fled Vietnam when I was seven years old because we lost our home to war in 1979. Vietnam was no longer safe for my family, so we climbed on a boat going to Indonesia. There were 504 people crammed on a 25-metre boat called 0010 and nowhere enough food or water for all of us. We ran into pirates who robbed us of the little possessions we had left. A few hours later, the boat nearly capsized because of a big storm, but we made it to shore. My mum, me and other family members spent the next 18 months living in an Indonesian refugee camp.
I left my whole world behind when we left Vietnam, including my beloved grandmother who had raised me, the home my parents had built and our dog. At that time, leaving the country was a criminal offence so we could have ended up in jail for trying to find safer places.
We eventually arrived in Australia when I was eight years old, penniless and only with the clothes on our backs. I still remember eating sausages for breakfast, my first Caucasian meal. The challenges just kept on coming – adapting to a new country and culture without knowing how to speak English, living in a home with 15 other people in Punchbowl, feeling lost and not knowing where I fit in.
These hardships have made me the person I am today – passionate about my work and giving back to Australia in any way I can. What I love most about Australia is that it gave us a second chance at rebuilding our lives. It’s a lucky country with many opportunities.