Anyone in the fresh produce business knows that it is not one of the easiest businesses to be in, with all the ups and downs, be it from the markets, currency, weather or even global pandemics!
Australia Fruits is celebrating 20 years in business this year, the company was started in 2003 when Joe Tullio started an export company with Jamie Craig who grew kiwifruit in Shepparton, Victoria and Garth Lockyer who owned import company Valleyfresh Australia.
“At the time Jamie exported only kiwifruit, but customers were asking for more products, so together we started up Australia Fruits. We went on to build exports and the increase the range of products offered.”
When Jamie and Garth retired a few years later Vince Brullo (2005) and Ray Erwin (2008) joined the company and became shareholders.
In the early days Australia Fruits exported to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, they have now extended the export markets all over the world, including Asia, Pacific Islands, the Middle East and Europe. They also import from USA, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Spain and Holland, mostly citrus, garlic and shallots which are counter seasonal to Australian local products.
The Australia Fruits team with Tim and Alison Jones from Wandin Valley Farms
“Our main products are cherries, grapes, citrus and stone fruit, but our speciality is the ability to load mixed consignments by both air and sea. We have our own facility based inside the Melbourne Wholesale Market, which allows us to co-ordinate, consolidate, inspect and load our own containers for our customers. All product comes to us, we see it, taste it and can convey to our customers in order to provide a better service. We are a one stop shop.”
Joe said that as with any business it hasn’t all been plain sailing, “Over the years we’ve had to deal with SARS, then Covid, a currency crash and of course Mother Nature: droughts, floods, hail and everything else she has thrown at us.”
The key to getting through these challenges has been diversification according to Joe, when one side of the business is not doing so well the other parts keep them going.
“Anyone who works in the fresh produce industry will know that the best thing about it is the people you meet along the way, we are a resilient bunch. I've met some great people over the years from customers to suppliers, even FreshPlaza journalists! We have been exhibiting at Asia Fruit Logistica for over 10 years and have made life-long friends along the way."
What does the future hold for Joe and Australia Fruit?
“Retirement!” laughs Joe. “Hopefully I still have a few years left and we will be maintaining what we have built up over the years. I think the future for Australia Fruit is a possible merger from a bigger consortium, we are not looking to expand further but if someone was looking to break into the Melbourne space it would be a great opportunity.”
For more information:
Tel: + 61 3 9338 8245