In recent years, businesses across Australia have been heavily focused on going green. However, in South Australia, one local business has been green from the very start. On the fertile Adelaide Plains in Lewiston, you will find the Giangregorio family owned 100 hectare farm; the birthplace of “Rainbow Fresh: Gourmet Lettuce Specialists”. This SA family owned and operated business has been growing and supplying produce since the 1970s.
Migrating to Australia from Italy in the 1960s, Joe Giangregorio was a baker by trade. Joe first purchased this farm land in 1968 and by the 1970s he started growing a wide range of produce, from potatoes to carrots. It wasn’t until the 1990s when Joe found his niche and started specializing in gourmet lettuce leaves. Rainbow Fresh is now a primary bulk supplier for salads for local restaurants and food service, with its products found in every independent supermarket channel in SA.
Specializing in salad mix, Rainbow Fresh offers its own Mesculin Mix, a traditional blend which remains it’s most popular in food service channels. They also offer a Sweet Mix, which is extremely popular in retail channels for those looking to skip on the bitters for a softer taste. In regards to Baby Spinach, you don’t have to watch Master Chef Australia to know that it’s also a very popular leaf. Being enjoyed juiced, cooked or in a salad, their baby spinach is now a popular core product. “The growth in Baby Spinach has been astronomical and Rainbow Fresh is producing the same amount of it as lettuce, 500 tonnes a year.” Says Brooke Moloney, Brand Manager. Amongst others, the company also produces Wild Rocket, Caesar Cos and Baby Chard and has recently introduced their incredibly popular Kale and Coriander lines.
“Quality is our main focus and we have always been HACCP Accredited. This applies to all departments of the business, from growing, processing/packaging and sales.” States Brooke. Joe’s daughter, Maria, is the Operations Manager and has dealt with a long process of paperwork and training to lift the company’s standard of quality. The hard work has paid off, as within the last few months growing has gone up to Freshcare Quality Assurance and its processing factory up to GMP. Still looking to set their goals even further, Rainbow Fresh is looking to be SQF Certified within the next 6 to 12 months.
One of the company’s key farming initiatives is Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This technique utilizes the natural balance of ‘good’ bugs over ‘bad’ bugs. This allows for a natural occurrence of defence against harmful bugs and minimizes the use of chemical based pesticides. Rainbow Fresh also uses solar panels to generate their own energy as well as water recycling. Another aspect of the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability is their unique soil conditioner. Made in-house, this magnificent element changes through the seasons. “We not only focus on the environment but also our community. If we ever have unsold goods, we donate them to charity, where organizations provide it to people who don’t have access to healthy food.” Explains Brooke.
Focusing on the community hasn’t gone unnoticed. Rainbow Fresh won the 2014 Community Achievement Award in the Small Business Achievement category. “This is possible through Joe’s dedication to the community. Not only do we give back through charity, but we also actively offer what we can through our different businesses.” Advises Brooke. Rainbow Fresh also won the SA Food Industry Award, for Primary Producer of the Year (up to 15 fulltime equivalent employees). They were also finalist in the Business Development Category, a major industry award in SA.
With Joe’s philosophy of giving back to give back to community, Rainbow Fresh’s focus has been about supporting charities for disadvantaged children. Their major sponsorship each year is with Little Heroes Foundation who support seriously ill children. This year Rainbow Fresh will also be sponsoring the Adelaide Christmas Party, for Special Children.
“We also do work wherever we feel it relates to our business, such as sponsoring cooking demonstrations that raise funds or awareness for worthy causes.” Explains Brooke.
In regards to industry associations, Rainbow Fresh is active with both The Restaurant and Catering Association and Food SA. “We find these relationships to be invaluable. These networks give us the ability to collaborate with other businesses within the industry. We can learn so much from each other and it’s really important for knowledge sharing and to help each other with any difficulties we have.” States Brooke. Of course relationships that are just important, would be with key suppliers. “We are not sure how our business would look without these key suppliers. It’s really important and fantastic to have people working alongside you that truly understand your business and have been with you since the beginning.” Continued Brooke.
When asked about any industry concerns from the company’s perspective, Brooke shed some light on three major, year round issues. “We grow in an unprotected environment, Mother Nature is a major issue. A hail storm can take out a whole crop and heat waves leave us vulnerable.” She explains. “Another concern is engaging the next generation of growers. They aren’t as interested in understanding how to grow and move the industry forward.” She continues. The company is trying to make things interesting by offering traineeships, hoping to inspire the next generation and help the industry progress. Lastly, Brooke mentions the importation of fruits and vegetables. “We can grow these in our own backyard and the fact the government is allowing some of these products to come in and impact domestic growers is appalling. I think consumers need to be educated to understand the seasonality of fruits and vegetables, instead of expecting to have access to them 12 months of the year, no matter what the impact on our local farmers.”
Having been in her previous role for over 10 years, Brooke has brought a wealth of Marketing knowledge and experience to Rainbow Fresh. “I was attracted to the role offered at Rainbow Fresh as they were a local company, with products that I had in my own fridge every week. I really trusted and believed in the brand.” Says Brooke. She is hoping to help bring growth to contract packing, which is going incredibly well for the company thus far. “I would also like to branch out, offer more products and become the leading bulk salad supplier in SA. Our main focus in recent years has been on retail, so we want to maintain ourselves in the independent retail trade while becoming a bigger supplier for the food service channels.” Explains Brooke.
“We grow on site, we harvest ourselves and package our product ourselves in our processing plant which is on the same site. We have our own trucks to bring it up to the produce market where we have our own store to send it to consumers. We manage the whole process.” Proudly states Brooke. Joe, now 77, is still an active leader in the business. “He gives all of us the drive and energy we need.” Says Brooke. With the help of his children, the Giangregorio family continues to strive for their vision of Perseverance, Pride & Passion. With Brooke now part of the Rainbow Fresh family, she says, “It’s amazing what we can achieve when we work together.” A note that will have us here at ABNS, remembering to buy local.