One of South Australia's leading family-run fresh produce businesses says they have seen several changes in consumer trends and a steady increase of demand for pre-packaged salads over the years from its humble beginnings 20 years ago.
Rainbow Fresh Sales and Distribution Manager Juliet Tripodi says the company also noticed a change in consumer trends during the COVID-19 pandemic, as consumer concerns quickly shifted to a product that was fully packaged and provided secure food safety from contamination and more peace of mind. But there have been many factors driving people towards pre-packaged salads over the years.
"We have been in this space and as the consumer trends have changed, we have adapted our business to meet this increase," she said. "For example, in the beginning, we packed into a hard plastic two-piece takeaway container for retailers to sell. Then we moved to a resealable pack that was hand packed still. Then onto a form-filled pack that was manually weighed, and eventually onto a fully automated form fill machine that allows for 3000packs per hour to be produced. This increased capacity has coincided with the increase in demand."
The growing region, on the Adelaide Plains, is ideal for year-round planting of fresh leafy greens, with a Mediterranean climate and flat open fields. Mrs Tripodi says together with their experience in farming and the ideal growing region the brand has become well known for its quality produce to withstand extended periods of shelf life and have a robust flavour.
"Rainbow fresh is a second-generation business that had its beginnings from my migrant parents (the Giangregorio family) 50 years ago," she said. "We still operate from the original location in Lewiston but the property has expanded over the years to a new and modern packing facility that is currently being updated and up to 300 acres of open field farming. Our business started with humble beginnings with husband and wife working very hard to make a living. The business has been through many changes but the core of it has remained the same; a passionate family that love what they do and value the people that has helped it achieve its success. through the adversity and many challenges through its life span, the business has proven to be resilient and forever adaptable in this very difficult and unpredictable space of horticulture. We intend to bring it into the next generation and to continue to be innovative to the changing consumer needs."
Today, the company prides itself in being able to ensure 26 hours turnaround from paddock to retail shelf. The majority of produce is supplied to independent supermarkets (Drakes, Foodland and IGA) with the pre-pack range of Fresh Leafy greens ready to eat.
"Our brand is most famous within SA on retail shelves with our rainbow shaded packaging range reflecting the different colours of lettuces," Mrs Tripodi said. "Our most popular variety is Baby Spinach, then second is Sweet Mix and coming up through the ranks in popularity over the past few years is Wild Rocket. Our next biggest volume of supply is the foodservice sector with our bulk loose range. Yes, we supply interstate with our bulk loose range – Darwin/NT, Brisbane, Melbourne, and we export – to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia. Our operations consist of weekly planting, daily harvesting and processing and daily sales. Our facility is ‘Food Quality Grade’ certified and we distribute from the wholesale markets in Pooraka which has access to all the states buyers and distributors for fresh produce."
The company did have a setback in 2020 when a major fire completely destroyed the packing facility which is "the heart of the business". Mrs Tripodi says that without this facility they were unable to wash, and pack the product for a period of time.
"The cause of the fire was an accident due to a faulty factory light that started the fire," Mrs Tripodi said. "We were able to put together a temporary facility in another shed on the property within eight weeks of the destruction. That has supported us in maintaining our position on the retail shelf over the past 12 months and we are very much excited to be moving into our newly rebuilt and re-equipped facility in the early new year. A huge task but this is what a business is required to do to keep in favour of the customer."
The new facility is being built back at the old fire site, and the team at Rainbow Fresh has been able to reuse the same foundation, but the layout is much more efficient and streamlined.
"We are now creating a facility from the start so we are not adding on extras as the business increases which is what happened with the old building," she said. "We now have newer technology in our wash process and we have been able to create a facility that can now produce double of what we were able to do previously. Our brand representation has increased in this time and we are very keen to keep improving and being strong in this space. We have a very supportive local representation and we look forward to also expanding some of our offerings with a few added extras in our factory."
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