Demetri Stamatis, sales and purchasing, Regional Wholesale Fruit Market, ACT
Tell me about Regional Wholesale Fruit Market
Premier wholesale is a family business run by myself and my brother Con, along with our cousin Derek.
My father and his brother started the business 35 years ago as a small local fruit shop and it has grown into the wholesale business that it is today supplying Canberra and the surrounding regions with the freshest, highest quality wholesale produce.
What sets you apart from other providores?
We have built our business and reputation of providing our customers with a high level of service and quality.
Where do you source your produce from?
Everywhere. We have built strong relationships with local and regional growers and produce agents, allowing us to draw upon a large network to source quality fruit and vegetables.
Whether we go direct to the farm or to the markets in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane we do whatever we have to to satisfy our customers’ needs.
How important are our growers?
Without our growers, we’ve got nothing. We are caught in a cycle where the consumer wants a better price because they have a low disposable income so pressure is put on the farmers to provide a product at a lower price so the big supermarkets can make more money.
Something has got to give because the pressure put on growers to continually reduce prices is not sustainable.
Who are your customers?
No customer is too big or small. We supply a large number of cafes, restaurants, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, caterers, clubs and hotels in Canberra and the surrounding areas.
How did you get into the fruit and veg business?
Ever since I was a kid I was always in the shop after school and on weekends helping Dad. Although this wasn’t my first choice of a career and I tried something else when I first left school, being first-born son in a European family I fell into the business which I grew up in and love.
Now my brother, cousin and I, as the second generation are making our stamp on growing the business into the future although my father is still around to offer his experience and advice.
What has changed at the market over the years?
Consumers themselves are one of the biggest changes in the industry from where I sit. The popularity of the food shows on television has led to a big shift in people’s demands, understanding and expectation of their food and where it comes from.
Their palates are changing and they look for new varieties and have a great understanding of what they’re eating, what’s on their plate and they are more conscious of where it comes from.
This means that we are handling a more diverse number of products and constantly sourcing new varieties of produce for our clients, especially our chefs. In our business, we need to always be on top of anything new.
What is the best thing about working at the market?
I love the social aspect of the business. I enjoy the relationships I have with everyone across the industry
What is most challenging about the industry?
Every day is a new challenge and we have to be on our A-game – today is finance, the next day is customer service and you need to source a new product for one of your chefs, and the next day we’ve had a cyclone and we can’t source bananas.
You really need to be a Jack-of-all-trades because I get a new curve ball every morning.
What have been some of the highlights in your business?
I enjoy eating out at our customers’ restaurants and special dinners. It’s like getting the full package.
You get to go to the farm and source the produce and bring it back to your client, keep the chef happy, then see the result on a plate in front of you. It’s great to see people enjoying the food in front of them.
What does the future hold for the fruit and vegetable industry?
Growth. I think people will come back to small retailers and small restaurants.