Australian Wholefoods: ready for business

Article originally published in the Food&Drink Magazine, November/December 2014

As demand for ready meals rises, a new purpose-built facility has given Australian Wholefoods new-found flexibility.

Adelaide-based Australian Wholefoods recently moved into a purpose-built facility to capitalise on the growing consumer appetite for pre-prepared meals. The company manufactures cooked and baked products under its own Clever Cooks, Home Chef and Signature Dish ranges as well as for the supermarkets. It installed an Auto-Bake oven, cooler and chiller for its Clever Cooks range of products, which includes quiche, lasagne and shepherds pie.

Australian Wholefoods now operates two Auto-Bake ovens, one for its lasagne and shepherds pie, and the other for its quiche. Wholefoods’ co-director Michael Demetriou says the Auto-Bake installation offered the company a higher level of automation, flexibility and capacity, and also allowed it to design a facility that was better able to meet the increasingly stringent hygiene requirements of ready meal production.

“The Auto-Bake system did satisfy the criteria of our supermarkets, who are very demanding in terms of ensuring we don’t have any cross contamination, and they’re impressed with our set-up,” Demetriou says.

The company can do small runs quite comfortably, according to Demetriou, but when it has a big run, it can use both ovens for the same product, providing flexibility. “Due to the fact that this is a very short shelf life product, there is a fair bit of demand on our processing techniques,” he says.

“When there’s a need to do promotional activity, we can turn it on very quickly and triple, and even quadruple, the output if we need it to. “We need to be very competitive with processing and pricing and to do this we need to run things very lean and equipment needs to work as efficiently as possible.

“Our current capacity is about 30 per cent. When you build a facility of this size, you don’t build it to have only 20 or 10 per cent left of growth, so we’ve allowed plenty of capacity there.”