Pat Scalzi, managing director, Scalzi Produce, Adelaide Produce Markets, Pooraka, SA
Tell me about Scalzi Produce
Scalzi Produce is a family business with three generations working together, me, my son and my grandson.
I started the business in 1972 at East End Market in the city and we moved to Pooraka in 1988.
What produce do you specialise in?
Our main lines are beans, mushrooms, blueberries, strawberries and watermelon and we specialise in supplying quality produce at a competitive price.
Where do you source your produce from?
I source our produce directly from growers many of whom I have been doing business with since the seventies.
How important are our growers to the industry?
Growers are very important to the industry. We have to remember that our growers have to make a profit at the end of the year or they won’t continue to grow and we’ll have nothing to sell.
We can’t continue to push prices down; they have to make a certain amount to stay alive, to make it a viable living.
In relation to price it’s a fine balance between keeping the growers, the supermarkets and the consumer happy.
Who are your customers?
We originally started the business supplying hotels, restaurants and the hospitality industry and later moved to supply independent retailers and supermarkets. Now we supply a mixture of customers.
How did you get into the fruit and veg business?
I have been in the industry for 56 years. I first started working at the East End Market when I was 11 years old selling newspapers before school.
Then I started working for Peter Michael Craig H of Craig Wholesalers at his stall in the early hours before school and the school holidays. When I left school I went to work at the market full time.
After five years, in 1972, I opened my own business supplying hotels, motels and restaurants in Adelaide. Three years later in 1975, I opened Scalzi Produce.
How does Adelaide differ from the other Australian markets?
Adelaide is a much smaller market than the other states and can be very easily overloaded with produce. When too much produce comes in from other states it can cause a glut because we haven’t got the population compared to the eastern states.
What has changed in the industry over the years?
I have seen a lot of changes over the years and then there are a lot more to come.
The most notable change has been the increasing aggression of the supermarkets to improve their supply of fresh produce.
They now employ much more professional people so that they can compete with the traditional local greengrocer.
What is the best thing about working at the market?
The best thing is starting early in the morning so that you have the afternoon off.
Although you still have to ring around the customers late in the afternoon for the next day’s orders you finish up mid-morning. It’s a different life and I guess you either like it or you don’t.
What would you change at the market if you could?
With the modern equipment we have these days I see no reason why the market couldn’t start at 6am which would make the industry much more attractive to young people who are put off by the current early hours.
What have been some of the highlights in your business?
It’s been making sure that my business survives and making sure that my son and my grandson can take it to the next level and keep it growing.
What is the most challenging thing about the industry?
The biggest challenge is to stay afloat and stay competitive and make sure whatever you buy that the grower gets a reasonable return so that you can take out your commission while at the same time offering your customers competitive prices.
You have to survive and look forward.
What is the secret to a successful business?
You have to work hard, be fare and be involved in the business at all levels. You also have to move with the times to succeed.
What message would you give Australian Consumers?
It’s important to shop around for quality at a good price, for the best deals, when you buy your fresh fruit and vegetables.
What do you think the future holds for the industry?
Wherever people buy their fruit and veg we have to remember that the growers have to make a living.
If we keep pushing our growers on prices they won’t stay in the business and then we’ll have no local produce to sell.
With our Australian climate we don’t need to import fresh produce we should be able to supply what we need year round.
Our government should be helping our growers survive and grow their business and make it easier for them to export produce.