Tutti Frutti Wholesale is a family owned and operated business that has been delivering fresh fruit and vegetables to the Coffs Coast and beyond for over 20 years. FOCUS caught up with Christine Gibbons, to learn about their past, present and future!
What is your connection to the Coffs Coast?
Chris’ family moved here from Deniliquin when he was only young, so he grew up on the Coffs Coast. As for myself, it started only 26 years ago. Chris moved to Victoria, where I grew up in East Gippsland, and we met while working on a farm in Lindenow. Moving back to Coffs was something Chris always had planned, so not long after we got married we made the move back to the Coffs Coast.
How did the Tutti Frutti Wholesale story begin?
When Chris and I moved up from Victoria back in 1998, we bought Tutti Frutti at Sawtell from Chris’ parents, who had the business for over 10 years. Chris saw an opportunity to expand into wholesaling. So, we put in an extra cool room, we had one ute as a delivery vehicle, and we only delivered in the Sawtell/Coffs region. We soon outgrew the premises at Sawtell and moved into Coffs Harbour. We started small, with only four staff members, two of those being ourselves, and it wasn’t long after that we moved into Coffs that we purchased the first of our trucks.
Now 20 years later, we have five trucks, 12 employees, we deliver from Grafton to South West Rocks and still love what we do. Things have expanded and grown over the years, but we are still very hands on with the business and our customers, which is something we always wanted to maintain.
What services do you provide?
We sell everything in fresh fruit and vegetables, but we also process vegetables such as peeled potato, pumpkin, carrot, onions and sweet potato. We also slice and dice these products as well, which is a great time saver for a lot of our customers.
We carry lines of antipasto, such as olives, chargrilled vegies, dips and cheeses; we can order in fresh salads for any function needs.
Who do you service?
We service everybody from school canteens to cafés, restaurants, resorts, clubs, pubs, supermarkets and even roadside stalls. We also sell to the public.
Where do you get your produce from?
Primarily we love to support local farmers, so anything we can get locally and in season we do; otherwise, we get daily deliveries from the Brisbane Markets.
Who makes up your team, and what are their roles?
As mentioned, we are only a small company with 12 employees, so we are like a small family. A lot of these guys have worked for us for over 10 years, and their roles are made up of packing orders, delivering and processing.
Jeff Clark is our warehouse manager, who has over 30 years’ experience in the business, and 20 of those have been with us. As for Chris and myself, I’m mostly in the office and doing the day to day running of the business, and Chris now spends most of his time running our farm in Dorrigo, growing potatoes and farming.
What have been the biggest changes and challenges you have seen over the last decade?
Probably the main change I would say is the varieties of produce available now. You have so much choice, which just wasn’t offered when we first started. Also, customers like to get a lot of produce already prepped now, to save time in the kitchen. As for challenges, probably our biggest challenge is the weather. The weather can play such a big part in availability and price of produce at times, that it can make it difficult with supply.
Tutti Frutti Wholesale is a family-based business. Have the original values and goals remained with growth?
I believe so. Chris and I never wanted to get too big that we couldn’t manage the company ourselves. We enjoy being hands on, both with staff and our customers. We always felt that by being in the business and working it yourself, you have a better understanding of what is happening with not only the business, but with your staff and customers. Some of our customers have been with us since we started, and that is something we don’t take for granted, but also lets us think we must be doing something right.
What are your plans for the future of Tutti Frutti Wholesale?
Of course, to continue providing the best service and fresh produce. We are also in the process of going green; in our industry it is hard to not use plastic bags, but by changing to bio degradable bags it will be better for the future. I would also like to expand out processing range to include other produce lines.