Australia is recognised as the clean and green fresh fruit growing capital of the southern hemisphere renowned for producing some of the world’s finest fruit and vegetables. This is due not only to our products, but also our people who work within the industry to make it all happen. The team at Fruit Masters Australia Pty Ltd are certainly no exception. The company was set up in September 2011 by Joe Lanteri to consolidate his 45 years of agribusiness experience which established him as one of the largest private and long standing producers of premium quality fresh table grapes in Australia. Joe has partnered with Brett Pickering who holds over 30 plus years of experience in export markets. Their combined expertise deliver a fully integrated business model to allow their agribusiness to capitalise in the high growth food chain industries.
Starting off with just 3 staff members Fruit Master has expanded significantly currently employing a team of over 12 staff situated around Australia. Proudly supplying fresh table grapes to Woolworths and wholesales markets throughout Australia, as well as exporting to over 20 countries around the world.
Exporting by air and sea, the team at Fruit Master recognizes that the shortest possible supply chain becomes an essential element in maximizing quality, in-market shelf life and customer satisfaction. With Australia’s close proximity to Asia and surrounding Pacific countries, Fruit Master Australia is able to take advantage of its geographic position to provide consistent and short lead time to supply export quality fresh, clean and safe produce to these international markets from Australia’s best orchards and farms.
Fruit Master Australia also has a dedicated Airfreight Division that specialises in consolidation of mixed cargo, operating directly from the wholesale markets in Melbourne. We speak with Kelly Wandel from Fruit Master, who explains what the company is all about.
“We have a strong commitment to always supply the best quality fresh produce. Fruit Master focuses on several varieties of white, red and black grapes which come both seedless and seeded.” States Kelly. Their table grapes are in season for six months a year in the Sunraysia region with networks in place to capitalise on the earlier season in the far north Queensland. Grapes are grown, packaged and distributed alongside their citrus, stone fruit and mangoes which are sourced from external growers around the country.
“Our growing team at Fruit Master are always focused on best practice for consistency, flavour and quality. All of our farms follow the same growing practices and work together to obtain the best results for our customers. We have consistent staff and our farms are run by families with over 40 years of experience.” Explains Kelly. “We also work closely with key industry and government bodies to ensure we are up to date with all new reforms, developments and technology to ensure we achieve the best manufacturing and farming results.” She adds.
Fruit Master combines several divisions under one brand. These divisions consist of farming properties and a state of the art cold storage packinghouse and distribution centre in the Sunraysia region, air and sea export marketing division, administration as well as field representatives around Australia sourcing the best produce. Kelly gives us some detail about their farming, packaging and export division.
“Fruit Master Australia works together with its Australia wide network of growers, transport companies and distributors who share our vision for quality products and service. Our technical and field teams work together with and assist the company’s network of growers to achieve excellence in farm and field management, quality and food safety, as well as providing real time data to our customers.” Advises Kelly.
Fruit Master Australia employs stringent quality management systems and monitors its accepted network of growers to ensure they strictly adhere to government regulations. Fruit Master implements world class best practice procedures as part of its quality management systems and accreditation to all required SQF (Safe Quality Food) codes. “We are also accredited with HACCP for growing, harvesting, packing, storage and despatch of table grapes as well as accredited to the (WQA) Woolworths Quality Assurance standard.” States Kelly.
Their cold storage packaging and distribution centre allows Fruit Master to pack and ship their products directly, arriving as fresh as the day it was picked. The warehouse facilities are able to store over 2500 pallets. And utilizes complete cool room management systems for all fresh fruit being stored using a state-of-the-art, temperature monitoring system that provides for fully automated notification and update of pre-determined temperature settings.
Fruit Master Australia has a vision built on the strong belief that trust and respect in every relationship has to be earned and shared. Joe and Brett have built and maintain strong relationships within the industry which not only include key suppliers, growers and partners but also governing bodies such the HIA (Horticulture Innovation Australia) and the ATGA (Australian Table Grapes Association). “We try to get involved with as much as we can. We work with the government in relation to inbound and outbound trade missions and keep abreast of all new developments to ensure Fruit Master Australia is completely across all facets of the industry. This increases our reliability and showcases our interest in improving the industry as a whole, which is not only beneficial for our brand but for Australia’s reputation as a quality supplier of fresh clean and green produce.” Says Kelly.
“We were the first company to export table grapes into Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. We were also the first to supply stone fruit into Thailand and the Philippines. These are quite strong milestones for us and we worked closely with the government to make it happen.” Advises Kelly. Fruit Master have also been nominated as Exporter of the Year 2 years in a row.
With a business that faces a number of different challengers ever year, the risks are increased by uncontrollable factors. In addition to the government and political risk involved in fresh exports, Fruit Master also has to deal with economic risk. These risk factors may not only stem from Australia but the countries who import fruit as well. “A major concern for our industry is the environmental risk. Weather conditions such as a drought, flood as well as extreme and changing temperatures can mean no production on any given day, this is why it is important that we source our produce from different regions around Australia.” Explains Kelly.
Kelly states the Joe, Brett and the entire Fruit Master Australia team would like to continue to be fully integrated in the years to come. “We would like to have as much control as possible, from the farm gate to the port. We would like to handle the process from start to finish with no 2nd or 3rd parties involved. This is our long term goal and it would be better for our customers and products. We are also focused on opening an international office in order to expand and better service our Asian market. For now, we are happy and excited to see our business grow each ye