KAILIS & France Foods has gone to extraordinary lengths to build its food export business, recently investing $15 million to upgrade its Osborne Park factories to meet the exacting demands of its export customers.
Yet the smaller steps can be even more telling.
Some staff members have even gone as far as to hand sort oregano stalks and spices to satisfy customers with zero tolerance for contamination or deviations from specifications.
The company has taken vegetable growers to Japan to help the growers understand the demands of the end customers.
It has also discovered the humble onion does not suit all tastes.
To ensure it has the perfect onions for its sauces, the company has imported seeds and introduced new growing techniques with growers at Manjimup.
“We have done an enormous amount of work with suppliers in vegetables, beef and dairy,” chief executive Geoff Wilton said.
“Some producers have needed to make enormous changes.
“That has been quite a challenge for some of them.”
Kailis & France Foods has become the largest contract manufacturer of frozen meals, meal components, soups and sauces in Australia.
Its customers include major supermarket chains and multinational brand owners, which sell the products under their own brands, as well as airlines, family restaurant chains and other food manufacturers.
So, next time you buy a frozen meal or crumbed fish from the supermarket, there is a good chance the product came from Kailis & France.
The food business, employing 350 staff, is part of the larger Kailis & France group, which traces its origins back to the arrival of Greek migrant George Peter Kailis in Australia in 1926.
Seafood has traditionally been the group’s core business and it is still very active in that area through Austral Fisheries, New Fishing and Lobster Australia, the country’s largest privately owned lobster processor.
The group diversified into the food business in 1974 and moved into food exports in the early 1990s.
The company exports to a dozen countries in Asia and the Middle East, with Japan being the largest export market. Mr Wilton said the hygiene standard demanded by its most exacting customers had become the benchmark for its entire manufacturing operation.
“We uphold those standards across our product range, irrespective of the customer,” he said.
“That leaves us well placed to win additional export contracts.
“We served our apprenticeship in Japan and that gives us opportunities elsewhere in Asia.”
Mr Wilton said one of the opportunities for Kailis & France was the very short product life cycle in export markets, particularly Japan.
The life cycle of products could be as short as three months and the rapid growth in convenience stores in Japan was adding to this trend.
Mr Wilton said this suited Kailis & France’s ‘food service’ business, because it supplied base sauces to other factories rather than finished products to end customers.
The company also avoided the high Japanese import tariffs on primary produce, such as beef, because it processes the raw produce into secondary products.
The company’s success in export markets has been acknowledged via numerous awards, including the ‘premier’s award for excellence’ in the WA Industry and Export Awards in 2001 and being a finalist in the 2003 Australian Export Awards.
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