Passion drives Freshmax to the top of the fresh produce industry

freshmax, the venture magazineFor one of the largest fresh produce marketers and distributors in the Southern Hemisphere, diversity and exclusivity of the brands and varieties they provide is key. Introduced in New Zealand in 1994, today’s Freshmax Group is the result of a merger of ENZA subsidiaries Frucor Produce, and Freshmax, boasting a formidable distribution network that serves the world with delicious, innovative, and fresh fruit and vegetables.

For the Freshmax Group, produce is truly about creating, promoting, and serving up the new.

Introduced in 2018, the company’s robust intellectual property subsidiary, Innovar™, leverages industry-leading expertise in developing, licensing, and commercialising new types of produce and produce brands. Working with global seed and breeding programs, Innovar develops and promotes exclusive and semi-exclusive produce varieties, a powerful differentiator from other players in the space. The burst of IP flavour is a significant value add to their commodity supply of high quality edibles.

“Within the Freshmax Group we have always tried to scope the longest-term outlook with regards to IP,” Group CEO Murray McCallum said in a release. “As the global produce industry has woken up to the face value of IP, we have gone further and are now looking at the larger scale role that we can play in ensuring the sustainable proliferation of IP for a wide range of categories’ needs and opportunities, regardless of market.”

Smartly combined with an integrated supply chain and service-based methodology, innovating through IP also gives the company a generous lead from their competitors across the entire supply chain. Fastidious quality management systems include compliance with Good Agricultural Practice (GAP), and production certified by GLOBAL GAP and BRC/BRCGS certification provides the Group’s global partners transparency and total confidence in food safety standards.

Over the years, the Freshmax Group has grown through private equity investments, acquisitions, and its import/export business. The Group now manages commercial relationships across 87 countries on seven continents and handles over 36 million boxes of fresh produce annually. In addition to Innovar, Freshmax Group is composed of six diverse divisions: Freshmax Australia, Freshmax New Zealand, Freshmax Exports, Freshmax Farms, and Valley Farms.

Disruption Shakes the Trees

freshmax, the venture magazineFreshmax Australia is one of the country’s leading produce suppliers, partnering with cream of the crop growers to stock grocers at the wholesale, national, and independent retail levels with the finest fruit and veg available. Their core categories include mangoes, apples, pears, avocado, citrus, bananas, cherries, peaches, and other luscious summer fruits. Freshmax New Zealand provides products for domestic distribution, imported products for domestic markets, and exports products overseas. Their core categories include kiwifruit, summer fruits, avocados, apples, and pears.

Freshmax Exports sends Oceania’s best offerings to over 40 countries, stocking wholesale, retail, and e-commerce global markets, including India, the Mideast, Europe, North America, Asia, and Southeast Asia. Their Valleyfresh division is also part of the company’s extensive global network.

Of course, Freshmax is a premier grower in their own right. Freshmax Farms division owns and manages more than 500 hectares of farmland in Australia and New Zealand, growing apples, pears, citrus, and summer fruits. According to the company, they also “partner in joint ventures with supply partners across the world. This ensures a strong and well established flow of innovation and best practice is constantly accessible to us and to our network of supply partners.”

Freshmax took a turn from the typical industry commodity practices of simply buying and selling produce, becoming more dynamic through an unwavering dedication to service.

Rather than only focussing on making investments to drive production, for example, the Group attends closely to developing state-of-the-art prepacking, ripening, and fumigation facilities. Earlier in the decade, Freshmax pioneered the design of a more efficient banana box that quickly became an industry standard. New Zealand meal kit provider MyFoodBag called on Freshmax to help perfect their entire pick-and-pack and procurement processes.

freshmax, the venture magazineLast year, the Group kicked off a partnership with New Zealand’s MyFarm Investments to help the country meet the demand for New Zealand fruits in the Northern Hemisphere. According to MyFarm, Freshmax plans to meet those needs “by investing in land, post-harvest, and IP across high value categories — apples, cherries, avocados, and blueberries.” Apples are also in high demand, with New Zealand apples ranking first in the World Apple Review for the past four years. At the same time, Freshmax Australia ramped up a 40-hectare planting program at their Swan Hill farm in Victoria that will produce a new variety of mandarin orange, the Tangold Seedless™.

Investing in passionate, highly engaged people is key to the Group’s great success, reflected by employee retention rates that meet and often exceed industry standards. From a distance, Freshmax may present itself as a wide ranging corporate enterprise, which it certainly is, but it takes a familial approach to its partnerships with growers and suppliers, keeping them at the centre of everything they do.