Development of the Australian food composition program, focussing on the enablers and barriers to progress, is reviewed following a process of reference harvesting and unstructured interviews with experts. Strong growth in new data and publications during the 1930s and 1970/80s was followed by more stagnant periods, particularly during the 1990s, enabled by data needs for national nutrition surveys, labelling requirements and national policy needs. From the late 1980s there was a move from paper to computerised tables and then to online databases in the 2000s. Australia's food composition tables have evolved in line with international developments in science and changed data publication methods. Maintaining the timeliness of these databases requires significant investment in new analytical data and skilled scientists to drive this process.