Mayer Family - Banksmeadow | Rabobank Australia Client
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Mayer Family

 

Rabobank client - Mayer family

If you’ve ever enjoyed spreading some Lurpak butter on warm crusty bread or a refreshing San Pellegrino with a slice of lemon on a warm summer’s day or even rejoiced at finally finding that delicious Swiss gruyere cheese that you had enjoyed in Europe now in your local Aussie market, chances are you have the Mayer family to thank.

Fred Mayer, patriarch and founder of F Mayer Imports, passed away in 2009 at the age of 81 but his legacy lives on in the family owned company now run by sons Robbie and Sam.

While F Mayer now employs 160 people and is an Australian market leader in gourmet food imports joint Managing Director Robbie Mayer says his father started from very humble beginnings.

“My father immigrated to Australia with his parents in his early twenties but arrived here via a circuitous route”

As a Jewish family living in Hungary, Fred Mayer’s family made the decision to leave central Europe prior to WW2 and spent a number of years in Portugal and then South Africa during and immediately after the war before making the decision to migrate to Australia.

Fred celebrated his 22nd birthday in April 1950 onboard the ship, off the coast of Freemantle en route to Melbourne.

The Mayer family had made their way to Sydney by June of 1950.

“There was still quite a strong cultural divide in Australia at the time,” Mr Mayer said.

Rabobank client - Mayer family

“There were businesses that were only employing Protestants, some that were only employing Catholics and many that only wanted staff of English descent, but eventually he landed a job in the food hall at David Jones’ flagship store on Market St in Sydney.”

It was here that Fred Mayer got his big break. As the only employee who spoke over nine languages fluently he was often called upon by Sir Charles Lloyd Jones, Chairman of David Jones, and Grandson of its founder, to translate for suppliers.

“Eventually the David Jones’ team told a particular European supplier that in the future they were wanting to only deal with locally based suppliers,” Mr Mayer said.

“This particular supplier turned to Fred and said ‘well you are the only person I know in Australia, do you want to help me?’, and that’s how he got his start, as an importer of these small music boxes containing processed cheese.”

From these humble beginnings operating out of the family’s apartment in Darling Point then a house in North Bondi, the business now utilises two massive state-of-the-art warehouses, 11,000 square metres in Sydney and a 24,000-square metre behemoth in Melbourne.

F Mayer imports a range of gourmet European foods and Mr Mayer credits the success of the business on the quality of their products and relationships.

“When my father first started the business back in the 50s the food at the time was very plain, stodgy, and British,” he said.

“He used to tell a story about an evening when he and a friend had driven past the flashiest restaurant in town, everyone was wearing suits and dining on fine linen.”

“Fred decided they better pull up and see what all the fuss was about, he was shocked, everyone was sitting around in their finery eating Scott’s pies and sausage rolls!”

Fred Mayer was one of the early pioneers in the fledging market for continental foods and Mr Mayer says he was extremely proud of how the food landscape had changed so much in Australia during his lifetime.

Rabobank client - Mayer family

“Today, Australia has some of the finest restaurants in the world, serving food from all over the globe, and as a company we’re proud to be able to contribute to that,” he said.

“Our geographic isolation and the distance of our distribution channels adds additional challenges and we have invested heavily in technology that helps ensure the consumer enjoys our imported brands just as they are meant to be.”

In 2012, with the increased demands for additional storage, a decision was made to fit out the Sydney based warehouse with a new type of refrigeration technology.

“While our focus is always on reliability we were also looking for options that improved our energy efficiency and our carbon footprint,” Mr Mayer said.

“We installed a CO2/HFC plant in Sydney and followed this with the 2015 installation of a transcritical CO2 plant with ammonia chillers in our Melbourne warehouse.”

“While the new refrigeration plant in Melbourne holds five times the volume of our old plant, our energy consumption has not increased, enabling us to increase our production in an environmentally sustainable manner.”

This technology, while efficient, is by no means cheap, but quality was a key factor in the investment decision, a fact that was clearly explained to their banking partner Rabobank when securing finance for the project.

“We moved to Rabobank in 2014 as we were looking for a bank that better understood some of the projects we were looking at investing in,” Mr Mayer said.

“Their approach was completely different to the big four banks and it really suited us, it also helped that there was a lot of cross-over between many of the brands we were representing, as Rabobank has a large representation in Europe.”

“That understanding, not just of our businesses and what we do, but of the entire supply chain, has made it easier to work on the continuing expansion of our business.”

As for the future of F Mayer Imports, the demand from Aussie consumers looking for European delicacies continues to grow and Mr Mayer says they will continue to expand their portfolio while maintaining their culture as a family business.

“While many of our competitors have been bought out by private equity or other large Asian and European importing giants we are very committed to continuing what my father started 60 years ago,” he said.

“The relationships we have formed with some of the best producers of premium food products in the world have decades of history behind them, that loyalty and trust is not something that can be purchased or developed overnight, and it will continue to be the corner stone of our business.”

Rabobank client - Mayer family

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