When I first stepped foot inside the new Flavour Makers Braeside factory on a rainy Melbourne morning, I was immediately hit with the tremendous sense of pride which seemed to be emanating from the walls of the barely three week old facility.
Barbara, Flavour Makers’ receptionist, was brimming from each to ear, and exuded an infectious sense of excitement as she explained the ‘big move’ which involved consolidating four manufacturing facilities under the one roof.
“We are still going through a teething process,” she said. “But we are all very excited.”
Despite construction workers still ironing out the ﬁner details, there is no way you could even attempt to steal the sunshine off any member of the Flavour Makers family.
Every employee I met has a genuine passion for the business, which still remains wholly Australian owned after its 20 years of operation.
Commercial manager, Jodie Hooker, said that it’s the fostering of strong relationships, both internally and externally, coupled with hard work that has made Flavour Makers what it is today.
“Integrity is one of the most important commodities,” she said.
Innovation and traditional values
As the name suggests, Flavour Makers do exactly that, they make ﬂavours, and they do it well. Flavour Makers targets the needs of the customer and creates concepts to match specified requirements.
According to Flavour Makers’ owner, Adrian Cester, the company was born out of an identified need for high quality prepared food. As customers became increasingly time poor, the demand for prepared foods rose, but the quality of products offered remained relatively low.
With family roots in the poultry industry, Cester started working for his brother’s business, John Cester Poultry, shortly after studying, and this is where he identified the increasing trend towards prepared foods.
With an Italian background, Cester has always valued high quality, home cooked meals and subsequently wanted to offer consumers something more than the stock standard readymade sauces and crumbed chicken that they were settling for.
Cester was frustrated by the low quality of prepared foods available on the market, and decided to channel his frustration into a business opportunity.
“Something was telling me to get into developing better food products,” he said.
Today, Flavour Makers hires chefs of world class standard to create the high quality flavour solutions that have become synonymous with the company’s name.
New facility, new ideas
The new Braeside facility showcases Flavour Makers’ wide range of production capabilities, and as such, has been built to world class standards boasting the latest technology sourced both locally and internationally.
The new facility is complete with a liquid plant, retail plant, culinary development centre (which consists of four test kitchens), sensory booths for independent taste testing, and a storage warehouse/packaging facility.
Everything apart from the dry blending facility, (which will remain separate for allergen reasons), is now located under the one roof.
One of the most impressive parts of the new facility is the boardroom which comes complete with its own state of the art kitchen that has been designed specifically for the final tastings of a client’s product.
The final tastings consist of a full meal created and served to the client by Flavour Makers’ chefs using the speciﬁed flavours that the client requested.
Another notable feature of the new facility is the yet to be completed vegetable and spice garden. Cester’s aim is to create a “sensory experience” which includes fruit trees, vegetables, herbs and spices at the entrance of the facility and continuing throughout the premises.
“My intention is to create a sensory experience. When you first arrive you will see recycled timbers and plants used on the building,” said Cester.
“People see us as a food science business, which we are, but at the root of what we do, is food. And we are passionate about that.”
There is always a solution
Priding themselves on creating unique, fast and functional solutions for clients both big and small, Flavour Makers never turns down a project, no matter how tight the timeframe.
“That may mean sometimes using external consultants,” said Hooker, “But we always find a solution.”
Although Flavour Makers may have grown in size over the years, Hooker says it they will never leave the small guys behind.
“We have an intimate knowledge of the local consumer, which enables us to create unique and adaptable solutions,” she said.
“We work with local butchers which serve as a great test market due to their access to the consumer.”
It is through this intimate knowledge that Flavour Maker is able to connect with smaller businesses and devise viable solutions to sometimes complicated requests.
As well as catering for local needs, Flavour Makers is also serving larger players in the market, supplying Tesco stores in the UK with its Passage Foods range and securing contracts with numerous lines of private label products sold throughout Coles, Woolworths and Aldi.
Challenges in the making of ﬂavours
Clean labelling, or the push towards more natural ingredients, has posed a major challenge for Flavour Makers. Tinkering with recipes to include 100 percent natural ingredients in its ‘Celebrate Health’ range required rigorous testing to ensure that the taste, smell, texture and mouthfeel were just right.
“There continues to be challenges surrounding the line. When we started, some of the products contained a small amount of sugar, and we are now removing all of it and replacing some with Stevia, and in some cases we are not using any sweetners at all,” said Cester.
Along with a change in ingredients, also comes a change in the price tag.
“The bottom line is it often costs a lot more to produce [our products] than a packet of something else that’s on the supermarket shelf,” he said.
“We have to try and be competitive. I would like to turn Celebrate Health into a completely organic brand as well but in order to do that I would probably price it out of the market. So at some point, we will probably split Celebrate Health in two and have Celebrate Health Organic, and the other… [conventional Celebrate Health line].
“We already have a number of products in our range that are organic, we have three stocks: chicken, beef and veg. The goal is for all of it to become organic but we’ve got to remain commercially viable. If I can find a way to make our quinoa and lentil range organic without impacting on price, then that is sort of my goal.”
Challenges aside, Cester says that the Celebrate Health line is experiencing an impressive adoption rate amongst consumers.
“We are growing almost weekly,” said Cester. “We presented 18 new Celebrate Health products to Coles and they accepted 12 of them which is unheard of, unless you are a really big player.
“So it is saying that Celebrate Health is resonating, people are loving it, people are buying it. We have also got a very clean labelling on it. I would put my hand on my heart and say that it is the healthiest stuff available anywhere. And I think that is what’s resonating with the healthy consumer.”
Contrary to the norm, Flavour Makers has made a point of being completely transparent in its ingredient lists by identifying every ingredient used. Cester said that he wanted to create a range that could ‘tick as many health related boxes as possible’.
Along with the Celebrate Health line, which includes ready-made quinoa, Passage Foods – which is one of the company’s wet sauce lines – has also embraced the health concerns of many consumers by being totally gluten-free.
Prospering in a not-so-prosperous marketplace
Unlike many other food manufacturers around the country, Flavour Makers has been able to thrive in an environment that is increasingly giving way to imported foods and cheaper prepared food alternatives.
The emphasis on connecting with both the consumer and the client, as well as remaining true to its initial objective of creating healthy and tasty prepared foods, has given Flavour Makers an unprecedented advantage in its market.
As the demand for local, healthy prepared food products continues to rise, and after seeing how Flavour Makers approaches innovation, product development and meeting its consumers’ demands, I think this is one Aussie brand that’s ahead of the game.