Juicy tomatoes straight off the vine at Flavorite’s new multi-million dollar glasshouse are making their way to households across Australia.
It’s the family business that has kept growing and now the Millis, Nichol and Murphy families are dominating the fresh fruit and vegetable market in Australia. The Flavorite business started with the simple idea to put the flavour back into tomatoes and through 30 years of mastering growing techniques, the humble, juicy red orbs have made their way into homes across Australia.
Flavorite supply fresh produce to all major supermarkets and independent greengrocers throughout Australia with a small distribution footprint in the Asian export market. Grown in Victoria, the family business has diversified their regional locations with four production sites based in Warragul, Katunga, Tatura and Mansfield.
The eldest Millis brother and Head Grower, Will, remembers his days on the farm growing up.
'There was definitely an expectation to work every weekend at the family farm in Tynong North, West Gippsland, to help dad with the seasonal crops,' Will said.
After Will finished school, it wasn’t a direct career path into the family business. Will had an interest in sports and slotted into urban life in Richmond, Melbourne. He worked for sporting brand, Adidas, managing their warehouse for a period before getting a call from his late father, Mark.
'He said there was a job on the farm for me and I’ve been here ever since,' Will said.
A growing business
With the family business expanding, Mark brought long-time friend and fresh produce marketer, Warren Nichol, into the fold.
Joining forces with the Millis family, Warren brought his business expertise and industry connections to grow the business to greater heights. His son, Mike Nichol has adopted his father’s values and taken on the role as CEO.
'Flavorite has truly brought innovation to the fresh produce industry, using the benefit of glasshouse production,' Mike said.
'Being able to grow tomatoes, capsicums, and cucumbers all year round through a sustainable glasshouse environment has positioned us as pioneers in the market,' he said.
Flavorite introduced the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to the glasshouse industry in Australia to manage insect and pest outbreaks with zero or minimal pesticides. It’s an environmentally sustainable solution, ensuring the best product reaches the shelves of retailers throughout Australia.
'We always think of what the consumer wants and that’s how we stay ahead of the game and continue to improve,' Mike said.
A multi-million dollar investment in Tatura
In March 2021, Flavorite were presented with an opportunity to formally merge with the Murphy family from the Murphy and Tatura Fresh business after a 20-year supply relationship. Combining forces has strengthened the Flavorite business and allowed further product and geographic diversification. The northern areas in Victoria where Murphy and Tatura Fresh are based receive more sunlight and results in increased produce in winter.
'There’s future growth at the Tatura site and with more land, we can build more glasshouses,' Mike said.
'We can produce more reliable crops of higher quality and create more jobs, all done in a sustainable way.'
In July 2022, Flavorite finalised the build of their new six-hectare glasshouse at the Tatura site. The new glasshouse has increased their employee base in the Goulburn Valley region from 110 to 170 employees – tipping to more than 1,000 employees company wide. The build was made possible through contributions from the Victorian Government’s Regional Jobs Fund and Victorian Business Growth Fund.
'The new glasshouse has created a lot of employment opportunities in the Greater Shepparton area and we’re always looking to employ locals where we can,' Will said.
'Our goal is to grow a larger range of tomato varieties - we’ve really finessed how to manipulate flavour through water.'
'Water less and you’ll have a sweeter tomato,' he said.
Strong family values and a genuine passion for their produce is evident in the way Flavorite go about their business. A dedicated team and supply network work around the clock to make sure consumers receive the best quality product.
With family values underpinning the way Flavorite operate, there’s a greater sense of belonging for employees and care for those around them.
The five Millis brothers have a unique bond and go on regular getaways together. As friends, they leave work behind which creates a good working relationship back on site.
'When our dad passed, we had to make business decisions together and make a conscious effort to also spend time together outside work,' Will said.
'Together with the Nichol family we have created a clear structure and roles for each of us, and it works really well.'
'As a family business, I was ecstatic when my two sons Connor and Austin chose to work their way into commercial roles within Flavorite, and in doing so extended the family dynasty into the third generation,' Mike added.
With over 30 years experience and some of the best lessons learnt from their international network, Flavorite offers an exceptional flavour experience and the demand and innovation keep growing.
'Tomatoes are a staple in every family home – just don’t keep them in the fridge as it will change the flavour and impact the texture,' Will said.
Read more on regional Victoria investment at Regional Development Victoria.