12/12/2007 - 22:00

Case study: Driven by a real hunger for success

12/12/2007 - 22:00


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When Adele Watts bought Pasta Fresca more than two years ago, she knew she would lose money in the first 12 months.

Case study: Driven by a real hunger for success

When Adele Watts bought Pasta Fresca more than two years ago, she knew she would lose money in the first 12 months.

That’s because immediately after buying the business Ms Watts set about making the cost of production higher, rather than coming in and finding new ways to drive efficiencies.

A year later she bought another food business, then within one month cancelled a contract with Australia’s second biggest retail chain, Coles Supermarkets.

But there was method in her apparent madness.

Ms Watts said Pasta Fresca had been a strong performer and a good brand name for 20 years, but its most recent owners had begun changing recipes in a bid to speed up cooking times and reduce costs.

“There are ways of getting around things so that it is not as labour intensive,” she said.

“But that changes the flavours. We pulled it right back. It increased the cost of production but the volumes later increased.”

Pasta Fresca and is now housed under the umbrella company, Fresca Cuisine, which was created following the acquisition of a second food business – curry company Rani’s Indian Cuisine.

Within a month of acquiring Rani’s, Ms Watts ended her arrangement with Coles. She said the size of the Coles orders did not justify the demands placed on her business.

“You would have to travel and drop off at each store, and you had to wait in delivery queues,” Ms Watts remembers. “You might have one box to drop off but you could be stuck behind a semi-trailer being unloaded and you could be waiting there for an hour.”

Ms Watts added that Coles also wanted to buy her products more cheaply.

Pasta Fresca produces a range of ready-to-go soups, lasagnes and pasta bakes using fresh ingredients, catering to a market of busy people conscious of the food they are consuming. Rani’s is a similar operation, producing naan breads, vegetarian dishes and curries.

Ms Watts attributes a large part of her initial success to recruiting executive chef Jody Jakes, a chef who had been heading up the kitchen in an Italian restaurant.

Although a qualified chef, Ms Watts said she needed to concentrate on developing and growing the business.

She said getting Ms Jakes to leave a restaurant in favour of manufacturing was a matter of offering her the chance to be creative in the new role.

Ms Jakes is helping develop and extend the company’s product ranges.

When Ms Watts bought Past Fresca the business was operating out of an 82 square metre kitchen and retail shop.

With increasing demand plus the Rani’s acquisition, Ms Watts decided to invest in the business again, by moving in to 400sqm dedicated manufacturing premises in Malaga.

It has been a significant investment, which included buying two state-of-the-art ovens from Germany.

But it has been an investment made on an expectation that the business has much more room to grow, with the Malaga kitchen facility currently operating at 40 per cent.

Ms Watts said she wore the price increases in the first year before passing the cost on to her customers, which include IGA Supermarkets.

“I wore the increase on purpose because if you buy a business and the first thing you do is put prices up then you make enemies,” she said.


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