Riverina Fresh on expanding its food service distribution capability, and how technology is helping to improve its processes and efficiency.
A lot has changed in the past 100 years, and for Riverina Fresh, who is celebrating its centenary this year, it includes a recent evolution from being a dairy manufacturer to distributing its dairy products alongside foods and ingredients specific to cafés and restaurants.
“We have always tried to have close relationships up and down our supply chain, from farm, right to our customers door or table. We saw an opportunity to get closer to our customers by collaboratively acquiring about 80 per of our distributors in Melbourne and Sydney, and bringing them in-house,” says Riverina Fresh CEO Rob Collier.
“It has been an important strategic move with a view to bring consistency to our distribution activities, as well as operational and technology improvements.”
Importantly, Rob says most of the employees of these businesses have joined the Riverina Fresh family, bringing expertise and continued strong existing customer and supplier relationships.
“We now have consolidated operations in Melbourne and Sydney that warehouse and distribute Riverina Fresh dairy products, plus a wide range of other café and hospitality specific products,” says Rob.
“We still have an important network of independent distributors in our regional markets like the Riverina, Albury Wodonga, and some longer-term partners in outer areas of Sydney, Melbourne, as well as Canberra. These distributors are typically long-term partners that have very strong relationships in their local areas, and we continue to work with them closely.”
What the increased food service distribution does mean however, is that Riverina Fresh has expanded its reach from greater Melbourne and Sydney in particular, and now supplies areas such as Geelong, the Mornington Peninsula, and the Central Coast in New South Wales.
“We are always reviewing our footprint and are fortunate that many of our roaster partners are expanding their reach and looking for us to join them. We are careful with our expansion so that we can ensure that we supply with a consistent experience for our customers,” Rob says.
Riverina Fresh has a key focus on applying technology and operational improvement wherever possible. It has now introduced improvements like routing software for its local deliveries and telematics to help drivers optimise their route. It even shares real time data if drivers are delayed.
“By having our driver team in store regularly, they are also able to build direct relationships, bring personalised service, and be a conduit for feedback. Our account and customer service teams are still our key relationship managers but there is nothing like regular interaction when people are busy to have real time conversations – even if it is simply positive feedback when things are going well,” Rob says.
“When our drivers return from their deliveries, they provide a summary of any issues or feedback so we can have our customer service or sales teams follow up quickly if required.”
A key part of the transition has been ensuring Riverina Fresh maintains great relationships with its teams and customers it now directly supplies.
“We have always had a focus on being as close as possible and understanding the various aspects of our supply chain, whether right back to farm or to our customer’s doors. We have been fortunate to have a great network of exclusive distributors and have had an opportunity to collaboratively acquire some of these distributors, consolidate and improve their operations with a view to bring greater efficiency but also improved performance and offerings to our customers,” Rob says.
The vertical integration into foodservice distribution has meant Riverina Fresh can get even closer to its customers and engage directly with cafés and restaurants most days of the week. Rob says this provides an opportunity to understand their business needs, whether its specific products, delivery times, frequency, or stock levels.
“It means we are in regular contact and are an important part of our partners’ business,” Rob says.
“It gives us an opportunity to understand and ideally help their day- to-day operations – whether with new products, meeting immediate needs or helping streamline their ordering, supply and transactional processes,” he says.
To do that, Riverina Fresh has collaborated with online ordering platform Ordermentum, which is widely used by cafés and restaurants. Venues can use Ordermentum on their phone or computers to review products and prices, place orders, receive delivery information, and pay invoices and accounts.
“We are trying to make transactions as easy and efficient as possible for our customers and ourselves so we can focus on our relationships, service and working together,” Rob says.
Ordermentum started working with one of Riverina Fresh’s distributors back in 2019, and from the get-go, Ordermentum Founder and CEO Adam Theobald could tell Riverina Fresh was passionate about facilitating the best customer interaction.
“One thing about Riverina is that they’re very forward thinking around how they can improve the customer experience and they really recognise the value of digital. The reality is, the hospitality industry needs to digitise to be successful in the new economy,” says Adam.
“Riverina is a real pioneer in this industry in terms of tech adoption. We work extensively in coffee, bread, and many other supplier verticals, but we rely on high- quality operators in each vertical to help us learn the nuances of their sector. We want to get it right, and to make sure our suppliers succeed. Riverina Fresh works with us to make that happen.”
Since 2020, Adam says Riverina Fresh started expanding its distribution capabilities and invited Ordermentum to come along for the journey.
“Our goal with our customers is always to create a win-win-win, and this amazing partnership with Riverina Fresh is reflective of that. It means Riverina Fresh wins, their customers win, and the industry wins too. This approach is at the core of what we do because our purpose is to build a more sustainable industry through helping suppliers and venues to trade smarter,” Adam says.
“We’ve got over 40,000 hospitality venues trading on Ordermentum now, and they’re looking for the best suppliers in the country. We don’t hesitate in recommending Riverina Fresh because we think they’ve got a fantastic product, a great team, and are genuinely committed to this channel. We’ve built a real relationship of trust both ways.”
The biggest advantage for Riverina Fresh customers in using Ordermentum’s platform, says Adam, is the ease of transacting, which is quicker, smarter, and more convenient.
“Over the past few years we have seen more than 50 per cent of the network adopt digital payments, and it’s simply because venues want to pay this way,” he says.
Adam adds that the ease of transacting combined with a visual digital catalogue means Riverina Fresh is able to connect with more venues, and in turn, they can access a full range of products.
Partnering with Ordermentum has become even more important due to its increased product range across its distribution centres. Riverina Fresh now supplies a full range of milks, creams, yoghurts, butter, cheese, plants milks, eggs, bacon, oils, drinks, chai, and a range of other café specific foods.
“We are also regularly adding products where it makes sense or our customer partners tell us they would like to source from us,” Rob says.
Rob says Riverina Fresh has built a loyal customer base of people who source its milks and products because they value quality and functional performance. Thanks to its increased distribution network, Riverina Fresh can ensure their products are delivered regularly, and has stock available to assist customers if they ever experience a supply issue or delivery restriction from another supplier.
Louis Azzi, Owner and Manager of Sydney-based café and restaurant Taste Traders, has partnered with Riverina Fresh since it opened in 2015 in the Qantas campus at Mascot, the airline’s Global Headquarters.
Each day, Louis uses the Ordermentum platform to order milk, cheeses, bacon, and yoghurts, a process he says is “simple, easy- to-use, and much easier than doing phone or online orders”.
“[Using Ordermentum] allows me to choose the products I need easily. I go through about 60 kilograms of coffee each day with the majority of orders being cappuccinos, so I need to ensure I have enough dairy product,” he says.
“[Riverina Fresh’s] service is good. The product is great, the standard is high, and Jeremy Hall, one of the Riverina Fresh Account Managers, is a great support and checks in regularly. I can’t see myself using anyone else.”
Rob hopes the rest of Riverina Fresh customers agree, and that they start to see the benefits in its more streamlined ordering and delivery process, increased product range, improved customer support, and consistent supply performance.
“Working directly with Riverina Fresh promotes better customer service and product consistency by ensuring clear communication, efficient order fulfilment, and a direct point of contact. This direct interaction allows for a more personalised and responsive customer experience,” he says.
For more information, visit www.riverinafresh.com.au
This article appears in the August 2023 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.