Mrs De Campi had worked in the family business since her teenage years and her (now) husband Marco started as a part-time delivery driver for Azzura in 1988, two years after the O’Connor-based company was established.
Promoted to operations manager in 1993, and working in that role for 12 years, Mr De Campi and his wife decided to take a break from the business to pursue their own interests in construction and teaching respectively.
Missing his role at Azzura, Mr De Campi jumped at the opportunity to buy the company from his in-laws.
“I really loved the ice-cream industry and the industrial side of manufacturing; being in the food industry was always something that was of great interest to me and I really wanted to make something of my own,” Mr De Campi told WA Business News.
Traditionally, Azzura had supplied its ice-cream desserts to Perth restaurants and independent grocers, but Mrs De Campi felt the 25-year-old company needed an overhaul in the way the brand was presented to the public.
“The first thing in our head was to bring the company into this decade as far as branding was concerned, and I think the branding lost its way a bit in our absence” Mrs De Campi said.
“While people can come to our factory or they can experience an ice-cream in a restaurant or a cafe, we found that Azzura needs to connect more with people.”
One of the first projects the husband-and-wife team embarked on was to set up an Azzura caravan in the heart of Fremantle, the first of several Azzura ‘caravan stores’ proposed for Perth.
Expanding on Azzura’s retail line of desserts was another priority, partly to counteract the export side of the business, which had been under-performing for the past 12 months.
“We started to export our ice-cream to Singapore 14 years ago and historically that was a fairly strong market,” Mr De Campi said.
“But since the GFC that has become a very difficult market to develop, and it got to a point where it wasn’t growing any further because of the strength of the Aussie dollar and the number of large ice-cream companies appearing up there.”
Instead of putting their time and energy into export strategies, the De Campis decided to look at opportunities for local growth, both in Western Australia and interstate.
“We’ve realised in the 12 months that there is a lot of opportunity in WA and it’s about maximising what we’ve got here and consolidating that before we try and pursue the export markets,” Mr De Campi said.
In addition, Mr and Mrs De Campi have recently developed four new flavours of ice-cream, which will be sold in tubs at around 150 IGA stores in WA.
“These four new flavours are also in new packaging, so we are trying to increase the brand awareness and make it more available to everyone, not just the food-service sector,” Mrs De Campi said.
While the couple would like to grow the number of IGA stores it supplies, Mr De Campi is cautious about expanding the company too quickly.
“We have to make sure logistically that we can supply those stores as well as maintain the food service side of the business, and I think the business world is littered with stories of companies that grew very quickly and disappeared very quickly,” he said.
“While there is room for expansion, it would be very easy to make a mess of it and then all of a sudden you lose control of the core business – and that is making good ice cream.”
With controlled growth in mind, the De Campis are examining possibilities on the east coast, and have started to distribute some of their desserts in Tasmania.
“We have started with a very small market in Tasmania because New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland are all very competitive when it comes to ice cream,” Mr De Campi said.
While maintaining steady growth is paramount, Mrs De Campi said it was important for Azzura to keep its business diversified.
“The decisions to supply different parts of the market has kept the business going, so if we decided to put all our eggs in one basket and go for all retail then we’re cutting off some of our bread and butter,” she said.
“So we need to look out for other opportunities and keep our client base quite diverse, without spreading ourselves too thin.”
With growth in turnover typically between 5 to 10 per cent per year, Mr and Mrs De Campi said they felt the business had greater growth potential.
“My parents grew the company to a point that they were comfortable with to suit their needs, but we are in a completely different situation,” Mrs De Campi said.
“We want to grow the business, we want everyone to know about Azzura and we want to continue to make top-quality WA ice-cream.”