Inspired by the reward and success of Italy’s many vineyards and orchards, Antico International strives to provide quality, consistent fresh fruit products throughout Australia and the international market. “The company started out as a fruit and vegetable retail company, then a wholesaling company many years ago, by a family of brothers,” says Executive Director and General Manager Hugh Molloy. “Then it moved into the early days of fresh fruit and vegetable export development, primarily to the Pacific Islands and South East Asian destinations.Originally the trade was very much mixed loads of what we commonly refer to as “supermarket trolley trade”. So, there was every item you could think of that was available, and permitted for import by these overseas countries. Now, more recently, our company specialises more in the export of fresh cherries and plums ( stone fruit), grapes and citrus. We have investment back to the farm level, cherry and plum production base. We now also import a wide range of fresh produce which are complementary or counter seasonal to Australian produce..”
Today, Antico International places a great deal of value on consistency in every sector of the business. Aside from import, export and wholesale, they provide “procurement, fumigation, active ripening, packing and distribution” for their products. Bi-annual site audits and monthly reviews are also conducted to make sure operations are running smoothly, and the company has Woolworths and Coles quality certification, along with a NSW Agricultural Interstate Certification Assurance (ICA) arrangement for fumigation. “There’s an enormous amount of compliance regulation to be practiced and maintained as part of our daily operations. We are fully accredited under the WQA, HACCP and SQF 2000, as well as the other accreditations that are required with regard to the export side of the business,” says Molloy. “We have lots of internal systems in place for quality assessment, from the orchards right through to the packed product.”
Another key aspect to ensuring quality is building solid industry relationships, making sure those relationships are not only long-term, but also mutually beneficial. “Historically, and also now, most of our business is very firmly based on relationships,” says Molloy. “We deal in perishable products, so it’s not very easy to produce a product and then have it sit somewhere and wait for the contractual side of the transaction to be processed. So, we’re trading product every day – usually by air, and by sea – and, therefore, the decisions as to whether to buy or sell or what’s required comes down to the relationships between the producers, the shippers and the overseas consumer importers.”
Antico International has been widely recognised for their efforts as a result of their current relationships with industry partners; their role as members of the Cherry Growers’ Association and the Horticultural Exporters Association have allowed them to access a variety of facets within the industry, and they have also been acknowledged for Outstanding Achievement by the Australia Trade Commission. While this may be the case, however, Molloy doesn’t hesitate to recognise any further work that could be done towards expanding international trade markets for collective benefit.
“Our major issue in horticulture is achieving market access and market improvement to our key target markets – particularly, our close Asian neighbours,” he says. “Whilst we have fantastic free trade agreements that have been achieved over the last few years, a lot of our issues are non tarrif, phytosanitary compliance issues. So, we have technical barriers that are restricting trade and, unfortunately, that’s holding some industries back – particularly industries like ours that we are heavily invested in. The cherry and stonefruit industries must have protocols that facilitate product movement by daily airfreight loads.
Molloy first became interested in horticulture about 30 years ago after he attended Hawkesbury Agricultural College; he began working with Harris Farm Markets, where he gained valuable industry and retail experience, and was then able to project that knowledge towards a career with Antico International. Since then, the company has expanded to accommodate the dynamic forces within the industry, international trade, and gained some key partners to assist in that growth. “We were probably a 95 percent export company then, and now today we’ve evolved into being a growing exporting, importing, e-commerce retailing company,” he says. “It is web-based marketing and retailing of gifts and fresh fruit products through our other investments in a company called Fresh Venture , which is well known for their fresh gifting brand “Snowgoose” and workplace fruit brand “Fruit at Work.”
Antico International is also integrated into Produce Partners in Auckland New Zealand, and wholesale company E.F. Cooke in Sydney Markets to provide fresh produce lines for distribution locally and throughout Australia. , Quality produce has been associated with the company for its many years in business, both at home and across the globe. “I just think it’s an interesting industry, and it has a lot of potential because the demand from overseas is enormous. Australian producers are recognised locally and internationally as very safe producers of food, high quality food, good flavoured food and I think thatis now being recognised more and more, and its also been given significant value.”