From little things, big things grow.
More than just lyrics from Australian musician Paul Kelly, these words ring true for brothers, Ben and Jack George. As fourth-generation fruit and vegetable providores, they will tell you the words perfectly surmise the Georges’ family history, the family business, and all that they believe in.
The story begins with the George family immigrating from Lebanon and settling in the northern New South Wales town of Casino. It is there, in 1927, that Peter George and his wife Waded first began trading in fruit and vegetables, making regular trips to the Brisbane Markets to purchase produce.
The Georges’ story unfolded into Queensland in the mid nineteen-sixties when the next generation of Georges moved to Brisbane. Their son Simon commenced trading in 1964 as a fruit and vegetable wholesaler at the Brisbane Markets in Rocklea before handing the reigns to his sons, Simon and Damian, in 1975.
Today, Peter’s great-grandchildren, Ben and Jack, work side by side as co-Chief Executive Officers of the aptly named Simon George and Sons (SGS). As the younger of the pair, Jack can appear to be more serious and reserved on face value, but he is just as enthusiastic as Ben and he opens up with a great sense of gratitude when he talks of the business’ history.
“We are extremely proud of the history of SGS and the legacy that our family has created. That legacy is something that Ben and I aspire to continue in the relationships with our local farmers, community groups and of course the clients that we supply.
“The food industry has changed notably since SGS began and whilst our core values and business model remain the same, it is an exciting time for Ben and I to be ‘the next generation’.”
The core values of SGS are centred on ‘one family’ that shares mutual integrity and respect, commitment to its people, and being forward-thinking. Ask any of the 250 or so people employed by SGS across the country and they will most certainly tell you that the George family practice what they preach.
“Our family values and people are what have made SGS what it is today. We take a conservative long-term view to business and genuinely value the relationships we have with clients, our staff and farmers alike.”
From humble beginnings with a handful of staff members and second-hand trucks, SGS has gone on to become the market leader and providore of choice in Queensland. Given the world of wholesale fruit and veg has been a way of life for the family for more than ninety years, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the fourth generation of Georges had little to no hope of trying something different. But as Jack explains, you’d be wrong.
“We both grew up working in the markets from a young age with our father during our school holidays. Our parents have always encouraged us to do anything we wanted to do. We both had short periods away from the company after finishing school, but the allure and buzz of the family business and the Brisbane markets brought us both back!”
When the new SGS headquarters opened in Brisbane in 1999, it revolutionised product handling, distribution, quality and service standards across the industry. One look at the state-of-the-art facility and it’s not hard to see why.
Think of it this way: When it comes to fruit and vegetables, everything starts out fresh out of the ground or off a tree, but it is what happens in-between that changes the degree of freshness and the taste. It is for that reason that SGS established a unique supply chain within its Brisbane headquarters that has been replicated throughout the other warehouses across the country.
It is a thing of beauty – temperature controlled and broken up into an array of carefully managed ‘rooms’ that suit the varying needs of fresh produce types – it shows a commitment to freshness and quality that you’d hope to expect across the sector.
“It’s one of the ways we can ensure our produce remains fresh, flavoursome and of a first-class quality when it’s delivered to our customers.”
Far from sitting back on their laurels, Ben and Jack have every intention of making improvements wherever possible. Ben understands that improving and evolving the systems that support the produce and processes is key for continued success into the future.
“Logistics form a huge part of our operation, and robust and developed infrastructure is key to ensuring we can source and deliver the freshest produce year-round.”
Delivering year-round is something they ace, and the numbers are astronomical. SGS supplies more than one million kilograms of fresh produce nationally each week to a range of customers, including restaurants, cruise ships, resorts, sporting stadiums, hospitals and mines. Brisbane alone supplies around 350 tonnes.
And yet, despite SGS’s enormous growth and success, it still leads the way in satisfying the individual needs of each customer. From accepting the occasional fax to flying quality produce across the state, Ben explains that it is all part and parcel of the service standards the business was built upon.
“Just recently we had a farmer drop a tray of zucchini flowers into our warehouse on a Monday morning, these were airfreighted that same morning and then sent by boat to arrive on Hayman Island for a special dinner that evening.”
SGS has a considerable network of growers, allowing them to offer the most extensive range and volume of fresh produce including exotic, niche and seasonal lines which are often unattainable to other wholesale fruit and veg suppliers.
“Our national reach provides us access to the freshest produce 52 weeks a year. We have six locations across Australia and whilst Brisbane remains our busiest warehouse, all our branches play very important roles in the SGS family.”
Ben beams the warmest and widest of smiles when asked what sets his hometown apart.
“Brisbane is our home, we grew up in Brisbane we are proud to be local. We can see such amazing opportunities for Brisbane in coming years with expansion, development and the ever-increasing migrating population, Brisbane is the place to be!”
It seems fitting that SGS perfectly embodies Brisbane’s newest marketing slogan: nothing’s changed, everything’s different.
Afterall, when you watch Jack and Ben in action, you can see that the old school family values ingrained within the business are genuine. How else could you explain the fact that SGS has numerous long-standing employees who have worked with three generations of Georges?!
These things take time. After all, the George family has been establishing close relationships with some of the most respected fruit and vegetable growers in the country for near on a century...
From little things, big things grow.