Anthony Gribben, director/salesman, BG Brisbane, Brisbane Markets, Qld
Tell me about BG Brisbane
BG Brisbane has been operating from C Block at the Brisbane Markets for more than 25 years. We started from bare concrete and built the business into what it is today.
I originally bought the business from Bill George (BG), and then brought Vince Mailli in as a partner followed by Antoine Fakhry, and together we have over 50 years of wholesaling experience.
What do you specialise in?
We specialise in mainly capsicums, cucumbers, zucchini and a range of tomatoes including cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes and Roma.
What sets you apart from other wholesalers?
We like to be known for our service and quality both for our growers and customers.
Where do you source your produce from?
We source our produce from all around Australia depending upon the season.
How important are our growers?
We grow with our farmers; there are quite a few who have grown their farms alongside our wholesaling building and our respective businesses together over 25 years or so.
We are quite involved with many of our growers now with regard to input numbers and seasonality to help their get the best margins on their produce.
Who are your customers?
Our customers are really anyone who wants to buy produce from us, although independent retailers are our main customers and we do service Aldi with some pre-pack lines.
We have a very close relationship with most of our buyers and our focus is servicing the good independent retailers and matching the product with the customer.
We have some guys who really like top-shelf gear and others who want value for money, the secret is sourcing the right produce for the customer so that they in turn meet their customers’ needs.
How did you get into the fruit and veg business?
I started working in a supermarket through a contact of my parents.
After about three days I thanked him very politely for the job but said I couldn’t continue being stuck in a supermarket day in, day out.
I’d also never worked with girls before and they terrified me.
Bill then offered me a job in his other business at Rocklea which I loved and have been at the Brisbane Market ever since.
What has changed at the market over the years?
Communications and expectations are two of the biggest changes that we have to adjust to and deal with.
Our communications have changed from the days when we used to sit in the car and listen to the Market Report at quarter past 12 on the ABC to find out how we went and whether we would have good news or bad news for the grower.
The grower in turn would sit by his landline while having lunch to get the news.
What is the best thing about working at the market?
Working at the market is a great lifestyle which we enjoy. It’s a great community with lots of interesting personalities and I love the hours.
I start at 3am and I’m home by 1pm which gives me the afternoon off.
It was really great with the kids growing up as I could pick them up from school and attend sporting events which a lot of dads working in an office can’t do.
What is most challenging about the industry?
I would have to say bureaucracy.
The compliance costs are one of our biggest challenges as it doesn’t change how we do business as we have good systems in place, it just changes the paper-trail and increases the amount of paperwork making it more onerous and more expensive.
What have been some of the highlights in your business?
Growing the business, in fact still being in business is the biggest highlight for me. We must be doing something right.
We also enjoy talking to our farmers and our growers; and we love seeing a product come from the paddock into a retailer, then into the home.
What does the future hold for the fruit and vegetable industry?
I think we have an exciting future ahead of us.
Our fruit and vegies are some of the best in the world as is our supply chain and our ability to get produce from paddock to store in record times.
Growing our export market is the key to our future and China will be our biggest customer in 20 years time as they will never be able to grow enough food to feed their population.