Smallgrain - Small business big on community health

Article and Photos - Andrew Johnstone

Becoming a healthier community sometimes takes small steps. If you tried shutting down the big fast food chains in one go you would have riots on your hands. It’s up to individuals to create businesses that offer healthier options and Smallgrain, a new food van and market stall, is one such business.

Run by Hide (pronounced He-Deh) and Lydia Nakano, Smallgrain has a simple philosophy: to be healthy, local and sustainable.

The two first met when Lydia, a Tassie local from the small northern farm community of Karoola, was on a working holiday teaching English in Japan. Hide who grew up in Nishinomiya City, in Southern-Central Japan, and was working in an electronics shop when Lydia popped in and caught his eye.

“He stalked me around the shop” Lydia laughed, “I wasn’t sure what was going on. I thought he was a student where I was working.”

As they say, the rest is history, and the couple married and decided to head back to Australia, arriving in Launceston in 2011.

Hide, who admits to not cooking much whilst back in Japan, realised his love for creating meals after working at several restaurants around Launceston. The idea for Smallgrain came after the pair began to understand that there was not only a demand for, but a need for healthier takeaway options.


“We thought about what we wanted to eat ourselves” explained Hide, “We wanted healthier options than the usual takeaway meals.”

They also firmly believed in utilising seasonal variety, Tasmanian produce and creating a sustainable business. With their plan ready, Smallgrain was launched in late 2017 at Harvest Market in Launceston followed closely by the Smallgrain food van.

So what can you expect to find on the menu at Smallgrain? Sushi and rice paper rolls, pork lettuce wraps, traditional Japanese braised beef bowls, breakfast oats (great for market mornings) and cheeky little berry panna cottas. All made with fresh, local produce.

One of the highlights of Smallgrain’s sustainable philosophy are the glass jars that many of the dishes are served in. They are perfect containers to either take away, or eat on the spot. There’s a great feeling of ‘doing the right thing’ when you hand the jar back, regardless of the $2 jar return reimbursement.


You can find Smallgrain every second week at the Launceston Harvest Market and also keep an eye out for their food van at various events and along Lindsay Street in Invermay.

The Nakanos are taking it one day at a time but have plans to increase the catering side of the business and also, at some point in the future, plan to open a Smallgrain cafe or restaurant. Small steps that will hopefully increase the health of Launceston locals and educate the community.