About 20 years ago, Valleyfresh Australia was established as an importer and pre-packer, operating out of a local purpose-built facility in Derrimut, Melbourne. Since then, it has not only become one of Australia’s leading fresh produce importers and pre-packers, but it has expanded its services into the global market. The Valleyfresh brand now includes exporting operations in New Zealand, the United States, Chile, Peru and South Africa. It also has coordinating sales offices in India, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.
“The business initially developed with pre-packing and importing for supermarkets,” says Director Doug Hammonds. “then, in more recent years, Valleyfresh North America was established to coordinate and QC imports from the U.S.A. Having somebody in the growing region coordinating all that was important to the growth and development of the business that we’ve reached at this point.”
The growth of Valleyfresh has been much more rapid in recent years, beginning with their expansion into New South Wales and Queensland. A joint pre-packing venture with Etherington in Western Australia has been their most recent local feat. “Valleyfresh Australia is now recognised as one of Australia’s leading fresh produce importers and a highly-regarded pre-packer of product on behalf of its suppliers, including major organisations in Australia Like wise, Valleyfresh Exports has grown in three years to become one of the premier exporters in Australia – particularly in major export lines of citrus, grapes, stone fruit and mangoes.
In 2014, Freshmax took a 51 percent stake in Valleyfresh, and last year, fixed the balance. So, Valleyfresh Australia is now wholly owned by the wider Freshmax group operating from Australia and New Zealand; Freshmax operations include apple and stone fruit growing operations, large wholesaling and distribution operations, etcetera. So, they’re one of the largest Australasian organisations in our industry.”
Valleyfresh Australia offers ripening, pre-packing, pre-cooling, storage, quality control, distribution and logistics of fresh fruit and produce. With state-of-the-art machinery and facilities in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, they have become “the preferred packer for many of Australia’s leading fresh produce growers and organisations,” according to Hammonds. “In particular, the operations in Melbourne and Sydney can accommodate all types of pre-packing product – including film, knit bags, flow wrap, packing configurations – efficient in our operations to customers’ needs with a high level of detail to those needs, including labelling and everything else that goes with packing. It’s a competitive business, so efficiencies are essential.
On exports, we offer market support as a global exporter. we offer our packers a full range of size and grades when we amalgamate requirements from each of the different countries we supply. For example, larger, more expensive quality might go to a market such as Vietnam, whereas smaller, class-two product may go to a market like Malaysia or the Middle East. We package a full range of product orders for our supplier partners.” Not sure about this paragraph?? Doesn’t read well.
The success of Valleyfresh both locally and globally can also be attributed to its experienced staff, suppliers and customers Collaboration as a “global group” is an advantage over other industry leaders that Hammonds feels has helped improve company efficiency and maximise opportunities, while also reducing the cost of trade. These improvements have allowed Valleyfresh to expand their purpose-built Derrimut facility and modify their services to better accommodate their growth and the needs of the current market.
“From an Australian point of view, those are quite significant developments, and we want to ensure that we are a primary handler in each of the markets we are involved in,” he says. “For exports, its one of consolidation in the established Australia, New Zealand and U.S.A. operations, while concentrating on the improvements in our more recent South African and South American businesses – which have grown significantly in recent years. We only just recently opened our Saudi and India sales offices to add to the Indonesian sale office that we had in place the prior year.
Theprimary relationship is obviously with suppliers and customers, matching each to meet their needs. We haven’t grown as quickly as we have without providing benefits to our grower-packer partners in our ability to move their product for very competitive returns, and for our customers, to supply on time to their exact requirements and communicate well in that process. So, it’s important that our suppliers trust us to be efficient at what we do, and that we gain support from our customers through supplying what they need on time to the specifications they require – and be seen by all parties to be true partners in that total business.”
According to Hammonds, the most amazing achievement for Valleyfresh has been their collaborative journey to become “the premier importer, pre-packer, facilitation handling agent and exporter” through their progressing global operations. Locally, they are involved in a variety of product associations, logistical groups and marketing associations, including Sedex and the Australian Horticulture Exporters Association (AHEA). They also have ACO organic and MSQF food safety accreditation, as well as Woolworths and Coles quality assurance certification.
Recently, quarantine and market access have been the major industrywide issues for Valleyfresh on imports, coupled with the competitiveness of the Australian dollar. However, there have been recent improvements in market access. “Vietnam’s recently gained access to the Australian market for a couple of items, including dragon fruit, as an example of improved product opportunities,” he says. “improving protocols in countries we currently do have access to, also makes importing easier. The strength of the Australian dollar in the sense of imports allows us to be able to import as competitively as we can.
On exports, the other way around. Market access is still the key. For instance, the grape industry has recently had significant growth out of Australia with the opening of Japan and Korea. The result being that more grapes are being exported, and certainly, pricing levels for growers have improved dramatically. Those key market access issues are the most important, but conversely? to the imports, we’re looking for a weaker, more competitive Australian dollar to allow us to compete against other countries. we hope to maintain our overall business by being part of a global supply base, to allow us to understand those opportunities better. As a global supplier, it allows us to better understand the opportunities for our higher priced Australian products.”
Entering the industry at a young age, Hammonds was a founding director in the CSI Group of Companies. He continued there for approximately 25 years before the business merged into Valleyfresh Exports in 2013. Since then, Valleyfresh Exports has been managed by a small team of key people based in Melbourne and Brisbane; We are currently in the process of developing opportunities for Valleyfresh South Africa – a venture that has been a focus for the last two years. “I personally have a coordination role with all of our global export operations, which I enjoy he says. “It’s in my blood, and I’ve still got an enthusiasm for the trade. I’m particularly privileged to be involved with the calibre of people that we have at Valleyfresh and in the Valleyfresh businesses –, I believe they’re, frankly the best in the industry.”