February 26, 2024

Simfresh achieves the holy grail of citrus growing

Being able to make decisions around the dining table is just one reason for Simfresh’s success. Strong family bonds, careful planning and an eye for opportunity also play their part.

It’s no easy task to produce fresh citrus year-round. In fact, most growers would be happy to achieve half that.

So it’s not by chance that Simfresh manages to supply Australian oranges and lemons every month of the year. It took long-term, careful selection of region, varietals and logistics.

The Simonetta family started growing vegetables in the New South Wales-Victoria border region of Sunraysia in 1956. Strong family values of resilience and communication remain at the heart of the multi-generational company’s culture, helping it to stay the course through the tough times and expand when the opportunity has been right.

“Our boardroom table is the dining room table,” CFO and Export Manager Amanda Cini says.

That makes it easy to respond to customer demands. “When a customer wants something, they’re talking to the owners, and we can change it instantly,” Amanda says.

Simfresh’s core business is packing and marketing citrus, out of a facility opened in 1991. Baseline production is supplied by family-owned citrus farms, along with local Sunraysia growers.

“Most of our growers are long-term,” Amanda says. “There are growers we have who have known me since I was born.

“We just value-add on quality. When the fruit’s good, the payback for the grower is good.”

The company also sources fruit from orchards around Australia. When combined with a good selection of varietals, that allows Simfresh to offer fresh citrus almost year-round – a rarity in an industry where a four-month season is more common.

It’s that consistency of output that’s led to long relationships as a leading supplier to supermarket chains in Australia and overseas.

“Supermarkets don’t want hassle, they want reliability,” Amanda explains. “Once you build that relationship with a supermarket, they tend to be pretty loyal.”

Amanda says that Simfresh’s enduring association with NAB in the decades since her grandfather established the business has also played a role in the company’s success throughout its history – “We’ve been with NAB since the beginning.”

The company works with a range of NAB business banking specialists, accessing their support across different banking needs.

“We’ve got good relationships with high-level management, and I think they understand our business model,” Amanda says. “So I’ll just say what I need, and they’ll sort it out.”

Looking to the future, Simfresh has a long-term strategy to expand its overseas supermarket customer base and build on the new Asian markets it expanded into when COVID upended global shipping and supply chains, hitting its primary export markets of the US and UAE. And when the moment is right, Simfresh will be quick to act.

“We have lunch and come up with a plan together,” Amanda says.

“That’s what makes Simfresh strong. We’ve all got different ideas, we’re all together thrashing them out. And once we’ve come up with a plan, we’re pretty quick about actioning it.”