CORICA Pastries has been a household name for the Italian and Greek community since it was founded by Giuseppe (Joe) Corica in 1957.
Yet, it is sweet-toothed South East Asians who have surprisingly emerged as the company’s more loyal customers.
And they tend to go particularly for its signature apple strudels which have grown in reputation with that sector.
Corica managing director David Bovell said word of mouth within Asia and from the local Asian community was providing a lucrative business.
Tourist brochures in Asia list the pastry house as one of the top 10 destinations to see while in Perth.
While on holiday here, Asians are told by their families and friends to bring home boxes of apple strudel.
The apple strudel now makes up about 30 per cent of the firm’s business.
Mr Bovell is as puzzled as anyone as to why the Asian market has emerged so strongly.
“There is something about this product that appeals to the Asian market,” he said.
“I can’t tell you what that is.
“They just spread the word about the shop.”
Mr Bovell said it was particularly busy during the school holidays, when Asian students would pop in to buy apple strudels before going home.
In addition, visiting families also made the journey to buy them.
With the Asian market looming as a significant buyer of the product, the company opened stores there through a licence agreement with Indonesian businesses.
The first Corica shop opened in Indonesia in 2001 in the midst of the new terrorism threat after September 11.
There are now five stores using the Corica brand name operating in Indonesia.
Mr Bovell is working on developing more stores in China, Hong Kong and Malaysia that will utilise product lines made in Perth.
In addition, strong interest for the product and store is emerging from Melbourne.
While still on the lookout for new growth possibilities the firm, which has about 15 staff working in the back rooms behind its Lake Street shop, is sitting on neutral revenue growth.
The company is feeling the pinch of the recent SARS outbreak and the uncertain world economic and security climate that is bringing less people into their store.
In 1999-2000 its revenue jumped from $850,000 to $1.1 million and has remained in neutral territory since then.
A new store that the company hopes to open in the suburbs in the next 12 months and another two planned within the next few years is something it hopes will lift its local presence and revenue base.
“We want to get to the mums and dads,” Mr Bovell said.
In addition, it is servicing the hotel market and working with tourist operators as well as expanding its product line.
Mr Bovell is no stranger to the food industry.
He bought the business from the Corica family in 1998.
Prior to this, his family founded Bovell Pies which was sold some two decades ago and has subsequently been plagued with financial difficulties.
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