Tell me about Regional Wholesale Fruit Market
WE are a family owned and managed wholesale fruit and vegetable providore, servicing Canberra and surrounding regions for over 30 years.
The business was originally started by my father and uncle, and is now run by my brother, cousin and myself.
What do you specialise in?
We are a local business supplying local customers, and pride ourselves on maintaining the very best in food standards and food safety in freshness, quality and supply.
What sets your business apart from other wholesalers?
We have positioned ourselves to provide the highest possible quality and service to our customers.
We have built our reputation on reliable repeat business with a focus on keeping customers happy for the duration. We strive to be a good supplier 365 days a year.
Where do you source your produce from?
We try to source produce locally where possible to support local farmers and industry.
Sydney Markets is a great distribution hub for us to source our produce, however for a lot of produce like onions, pumpkins, watermelons, we go direct to the farmer.
It's all about ensuring that you get the best product you possibly can at a price you can afford to sell it to a business so that they can make a profit.
All our customers are doing it tough so we have to think smart for them while also making our own business viable.
Who are your customers?
We supply fresh produce to restaurants, clubs, bars, cafés, hospitals and nursing homes in Canberra and the surrounding region.
How did you get into the fruit and veg business?
My father and uncle started the business in the early 1980s, which makes me the second generation in the business.
As a kid I used to help out sweeping the floors, peeling onions or stacking shelves after school and during school holidays.
It naturally just progressed from there. After I left school Dad asked if I wanted to join the business with the view to taking it over one day.
I decided to take it on and now run the business with my younger brother Con, and cousin Derek.
Dad has shared all his knowledge with me, everything I have learned about the business I have learnt from him - nothing can replace that as there is no university course for our industry.
What do you enjoy about the market?
The social aspect is the best thing about the market, it's like the United Nations.
What's changed about the market over the years?
Chain stores buying direct from farms have really changed the industry as a whole, diluting the central market which used to set the price of produce.
People's buying habits have certainly changed as well.
For example, 10 years ago I would sell a dozen or two dozen boxes of salad mix a week whereas today I sell it by the pallet-load.
How has COVID-19 affected the business?
The last two years have been a challenge, that's for sure! We started doing more home deliveries which was new for us.
Although we were in retail about 15 years ago, it was really just a new way of doing business and a way to keep all our staff on board during the lockdowns.
I had a company create a website for me in two days, and put up $100 advertising on Facebook, and woke up to over 450 orders the next morning growing to over 1000 orders at one point.
It was just crazy! It really helped us get through what was such a challenging time for so many people.
We still provide the service, and will continue to do so while people are happy to use it.
What's the most challenging part of the industry?
Without a doubt the most challenging thing is dealing with the weather as it is so unpredictable.
What is the secret to a successful business?
Maintaining positive, open customer relationships is one of the most important things in our business.
Treating your customers as individuals rather than a number and taking the time to understand their business is vital to the success of our business.
What does the future hold for the fruit and vegetable industry?
As much a hate to say it, pre-prepared produce for the hospitality industry! It is a huge part of where we are going, and it is going that way because the cost of labour is so high.
It is expensive to pay staff in a kitchen to peel a potato or dice a carrot.
It is much more economical to buy produce into the kitchen pre-prepared. It is simply not viable to have a sous-chef paid to prepare vegetables.
Someone, somewhere has to invest in the machinery that will peel one tonne of carrots an hour as opposed to manually peeling 10 kg an hour to keep the restaurants viable.
This is what the future holds.
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