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Our Story

Established in 1992, Superior Food Services is an award winning national foodservice distributor who, for over 25 years, has consistently provided the highest level of customer service to our valued and loyal customers. The Company has developed a sound reputation as a market leader in storage and distribution services, with distribution capabilities strategically placed all over Australia. Our extensive product range enables us to offer our diverse customer base a one-stop-supply solution backed by our customer-comes-first philosophy. As an Australian owned company we operate a lot like you. We know the value of innovation and agility in today's economy and constantly strive to deliver excellence.

The merger with Sealanes Food Services in Western Australia has defined a wider reach for Superior Foods Services in Australia. The two independent owner operated companies have a history of consistently providing the highest level of customer service. Both companies hold similar values and accomplish excellent results for our customers, with the focus of exceeding customer expectations being the easiest company to do business with in the industry.

The Company's operations are well represented with over 13 branches nationally and a diverse range of products categories.

Our offer stretches from large scale quick service restaurants (QSR), major hospitals and aged care facilities through to smaller street cafes and restaurants.

Superior Food Services
The History of Superior Foods
1992: Origins

The origin of our company began long before the 22nd of January 1992, when the first delivery was made. It really started with a seven-year-old boy jockeying on his fathers S & P Foodservice truck back in the 1970s. Craig Phillips spent many school holidays learning the changing foodservice trade, unwittingly preparing for his own career in the industry.

As an 18 year old the opportunity to purchase a moderate smallgoods business in 1987, off a retiring veteran of the industry, Harold Francis, was considered a good option compared with the $147 per week he was earning working for Telecom. The idea of working in the van two days a week and training hard while trying out at the St Kilda Football Club was appealing. That was until a Don Smallgoods strike five weeks into the new venture saw two days a week quickly become five and football take a backseat. The challenge of expanding the product range and customer base became a passion until early in 1990 when this successful small business was sold. An unofficial apprenticeship in foodservice had been completed.

After a year with Unilever in sales, and a year of travelling the world, it was time for the longhaired, bearded Craig to re-enter the world of foodservice. So began Superior Food Services. Craig purchased a van and began to attract some new customers with the help of Les Traplin at Chef Master in Carnegie. Les had spent some of his own youth dating Craig's aunty and had a soft spot for the young ambitious owner-driver. Incidentally, Les has now been an employee of Superior's for many years and his son and daughter also spent time employed by the Company. The first week of trading attracted only $1672 in sales but after a shave and haircut things rapidly improved. In those days all invoices were hand written and customers often ordered one week in advance, a far cry from the fast turn around times required by customers today. Craig continued in this owner-driver roll until 1994 when thoughts of expanding the modest delivery run into a foodservice business began.

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1995: The Beginning

The base for the business became Craig's garage in Edithvale and the backup (dry goods only) delivery vehicle was the red Ford Laser belonging to the wife of his new business partner, Michael Jeffs. Unfortunately, the car had a hatch that would never stay up, constantly whacking the driver on the head as stock was loaded and unloaded. Rapidly, the business evolved until Michael's father Ernie and two brothers Garry and Troy joined Superior as the first employees. In 1995, increased sales and the acquisition of the customer list of NNR in Brunswick along with the smallgoods run of Billy Black, demanded the boys lease their first warehouse of 160 square metres in Highett.

Chadstone Shopping Centre became a strong customer area for Superior and they graduated from a van to a truck due to the increased volume. As Ernie Jeffs had always parked the van in the underground car park to do his deliveries at Chadstone, he tried to do this one-day in the truck! He realised his mistake when the truck hit the concrete roof of the underground car park pushing the box into a shape Picasso would be proud of. Ernie managed to finish his deliveries by climbing in through the new hole in the vehicles front and then returned to base with the mangled remains. Craig, in his wisdom, decided to drive the vehicle to Gina Fibreglass for repairs but didn't quite make it as the whole truck body collapsed onto Keys Road, Moorabbin. A young lady passing by, highly amused at what she had witnessed, then helped to load the remains of the truck body onto the newly created tray truck.

Although Superior sales were increasing steadily Craig and Michael recognised what the market was missing: a service orientated, broad line distributor to compete with the dominating larger companies that were rapidly rationalising the industry. A lease was struck for what, at the time, was a massive warehouse for Superior on Fairbank Road, Clayton: 750 square metres! Craig and Michael fully expected to complete a three-year lease here, but twelve months later it would be time to move again.

Craig and Michael adapted to the needs of the business by necessity. Craig went from driver to sales to order taker to buyer to manager. Michael followed a similar path giving both Directors an insight into the many different issues that Superior staff come across daily in their business. The boys also took a decision that would shape the business into the future, by avoiding any especially difficult customers, preferring people who wanted to work with them to achieve a mutually positive result for the long term.

With the continued support from customers like Le Croissant Connection, The Albert Road Clinic and Yarra Yarra Golf Club, Superior Food Services was able to take on their third warehouse in as many years at Sandown Road, Springvale. Over 2400 square metres would surely see the business through greater growth and allow improved buying power and service ability into the future. With space to fill Superior increased sales staff, aggressively sought out more customers, and improved professionalism, all to accommodate growth. Craig recalls, "It was about 1997 when Michael and I sat down and decided that I should move away from the day to day duties like invoicing, loading trucks and picking orders to concentrate on improving our systems and continuing to change operations to adapt to our growth. This action allowed us to grow with minimal impact on our current customer base and we remain proud of the fact that we lose very few customers once they have traded with us."

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1998: Springvale

The move to Springvale in October 1998 proved to be a great success with the additional space allowing more competitive purchasing and, in turn, savings to pass on to customers. An influx of staff came with the increased turnover and, amongst them some terrific people who have helped shape the direction of the company. Maureen Vincent, who then ran the office on her own recalls, "I have seen Craig and Michael work really hard to create a team that works together to achieve the best possible result." Maureen has returned to the office team after having her children and is an integral part of Superior's success.

It quickly became apparent that quality service was the key to the rapid growth Superior was experiencing. Craig and Michael recognised this fact early and decided upon a long-term outlook on their investment. Michael recalls, "Craig and I have always run the company with a lean budget so that we can re-invest the capital for the enhancement and expansion of the business. Our commitment to food service is evident in the delivery vehicles that we have built over the years. With clean, dual temperature control delivery vehicles you can assume without doubt that your goods will always be delivered in premium condition."

Despite the Director's hands-on approach, and a policy of strict credit-control, a significant bad debt nearly crippled the growing company in 1999. "I will always remember a friendly competitors early morning phone call informing us that our largest customer at the time had declared themselves in voluntarily administration. I quickly checked the computer and found a significant amount outstanding. We never received one cent." Craig still shakes his head as he repeats those details.

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1998: North America

In 1999 Craig travelled to North America on a study tour of American and Canadian food wholesalers and developed an understanding of how foodservice can operate successfully on a larger scale. Craig recalls "I was impressed with the ability of distributors to adapt to their market, for instance in New York they can only get onto Manhattan Island between 1am and 4am to make their deliveries. It taught me to be flexible and to listen to our customers needs, then to look at managing a mutually beneficial solution. From each distributor I was able to gather useful information to take home and improve our systems for the future. Most importantly, I realised that the successful operators commonly had terrific personal service regardless of their size.

From the trip the idea was developed to put far more emphasis on the partnership between our customers, our suppliers and Superior, ensuring the best result for all parties over the long term. With the introduction of the "Food Fight" promotion and some high quality trade days Superior was recognised with their first nomination for the prestigious AFMA (Australian Food Manufacturers Association) Award for Victorian Foodservice Distributor of the Year. They went on to win this award for the first time in 2000, and again in 2002, a great honour considering the much larger turnover of the competition. Proudly, Superior Food Services was nominated in each of the last seven years for this award in Victoria, until AFMA was disbanded in 2006.

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2001: Further Expansion

In 2001/2002 Superior Food Services continued to improve its reputation and sales as more customers became aware that the staff and management most concerned about meeting their requirements. This growth saw further premium delivery vehicles built and a number of interesting and wonderful staff join the ranks. With Claire Shepherd, Jenny McMahon (Pepper) and Carol Hobbelan all joining the sales team the girls outnumbered the boys! A unique situation in what is sometimes seen as a male dominated industry.

Rapidly, the evolving foodservice market was increasing the demands on the distributor and further rationalisation was to come with ten of Australia's leading foodservice companies forming a new group called Combined Foodservices of Australia (CFA). CFA provides Superior with improved buying power and a clear benefit of supporting key manufacturers. With Craig becoming the inaugural Director he had a greater say in the direction of the buying group. CFA also launched the Signature Brands reward program, which instantly became the most successful reward program in the foodservice industry further enhancing Superior's ability to offer value to their customers. Not only were hundreds of individual prizes given away with Signature Brands in 2002, Superior also gave away a new car to the Austin Hospital from their own Food Fight promotion. Signature Brands continues to grow every year and improve the rewards loyal customers can achieve.

Superior's customer support was leading to further sales growth and the time was fast approaching to decide if they should keep expanding and move again. In 2001, after the acquisition and integration of Beand Trading (a health and aged care focused distributor in South Melbourne), Craig and Michael realised that they would need to start preparing for the company's promising future once again.

Beand Trading operated from South Melbourne for a couple of years allowing Superior great access to the Melbourne's CBD and provided the business with an introduction to some fantastic new accounts like Melbourne Health and Parliament House. Craig's Friday visits to the little warehouse were timed around lunch to enjoy the market Dim Sims which probably contributed to the warehouse staying open a little longer than was necessary. After the next move it was time to amalgamate the businesses.

The Springvale warehouse became too small for the blossoming business and in 2003 Superior Food Services joined forces with Sunnyqueen Eggs from Queensland in an attempt to acquire the Farm Pride site and business in Keysborough. The deal was done between the businesses subject to shareholder's approval of the deal but, after a year of negotiating and legal wrangling, the shareholder's of Farm Pride voted against the deal 54% to 46% and it was back to the drawing board!

This disappointment led to Craig seeking a new warehouse with renewed vigour as the Springvale warehouse was bursting at the seems. As luck would have it a warehouse of 4400 square metres, which was built by Edgell, became available on Springvale Road, Mulgrave. Although the warehouse had ten times the storage space of what they already had, Craig and Michael decided to acquire the site and set up the future of Superior Food Services in Mulgrave. "We were so fortunate to find a building of the size we wanted, made from refrigerated panel, with ten loading docks and right on the cusp of the freeway, that it was like it was meant to be", Craig recalls.

Moving a business of this size was a monumental effort and many loyal staff gave up their personal time to ensure the impact on Superior customers was kept to a minimum. Craig was often heard muttering during this time of extreme sleep deprivation "We are never moving this business again". Time will tell?

After stabilising the business, the opportunity to increase Superior's purchasing power, and in turn drive their sales, came again. It all led to an introduction of several new staff, and sales blossomed once again.

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2004: Acquisitions

In 2004, with Mulgrave performing so well, the opportunity to purchase a quiet distribution business in Albury presented itself. Cameron's Wholesale Foods was acquired in June. Long-term employee and former customer, Joe DeLosa, packed his bags and left Melbourne for the country life as our first Regional Manager.

Having a regional depot presented some new challenges for the company, but with the gradual introduction of the philosophies that have made Superior so successful, Superior Food Services in Albury has gained a similar reputation for personal service.

Superior's commitment to long-term success became even more evident in 2007 when another acquisition opportunity was taken up. Craig, who handles all potential acquisitions, said: "With any opportunity we need to weigh up the potential of the business, once it is supported by our experience and infrastructure, against the cost. With Wagga Wagga we couldn't pass up the chance to have a warehouse an hour and a half from Albury, with good staff and strong sales, so that we can continue to expand our brand in the Riverina."

While these two additional locations have added significant volume growth to Superior, the fact that both locations are managed and staffed by some very fine local people allows the two businesses to run autonomously, and they are complimented by the infrastructure of the larger operation in Mulgrave.

As Superior continued to grow many of the staff continued to grow with the business. Claire Shepherd-Hill, Jenny McMahon (nee Pepper), Scott McGeagh, Troy Jeffs and many others took on extra responsibilities and embraced their new challenges, contributing significantly to the continued success of Superior.

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2006: Food Industry Association

2006 saw the emergence of the Food Industry Association (FIA) replacing AFMA as the major foodservice industry group in Victoria. Their inaugural awards event saw Superior awarded the Metropolitan Foodservice Distributor of the Year award for Victoria. This was a great honour, considering the award is voted on by our suppliers, who make up the membership of the FIA. Superior Food Services backed up the inaugural award by winning again in 2007. Superior has gone on to win this award every year except 2008. 2011 was five from six!

By November 2007, Superior had grown to 90 staff, 25 delivery vehicles and a turnover of around $50 million. An amazing success story with more to come, according to Craig. "What we have been able to achieve to this point can be contributed to the loyalty which many staff, customers and suppliers have shown us over the years and, not surprisingly, a lot of hard work! We now have a foundation to take the business on to new challenges, but we do so mindful of not sacrificing our performance for any short-term gain. We will never aim to be the biggest, but will continually strive to be the best."

In 2008 the highlight was winning Domino's pizza business in Victoria. Domino's has been very successful in Australia and has a great attitude towards their business partners. Together, Superior and Domino's have gone from strength to strength in Victoria.

The biggest concern at the end of 2008, after growing our business by 33%, was how we were going to continue to improve our results!

Superior followed the big results of 2008 with a consolidating year in 2009, and only 7% growth. Although MD Craig Phillips expressed concern over the result at the time, "we were accustomed to double digit growth and having a stable period made me wonder about our ability to continue to grow in the future. But I realised that we needed to bed down our growth from 2008 and make sure we performed to the level that I desired. In hind-site this was a good year for us to reset our foundations and refocus our energy."

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2010: A solid year

2010 was a solid year with Victorian metro sales growing 19% in a pretty tough market. It was at this time that Craig and Michael started to consider their options for the future. A potential acquirer had showed interest in Superior but with the Directors just passed 40 there was a feeling of "unfinished business" and a plan was hatched to consider acquiring in the larger markets like Sydney. "We had learnt a great deal from our smaller acquisitions over the journey and made a decision to look at opportunities as they arose and carefully consider the benefits against the cost." At a presentation for the FSAA (Food Service Association of Australia) Craig spoke publicly to industry peers about the need for the industry to have a third major player and that Superior was well placed to be that business. Craig also went on to say, "We don't need to expand but we want to. Our choice is to drive our business as far as we can take it without compromising our foundations."

Another major change happened in 2010 with the introduction of our Brisbane office. A key account, Baskin and Robbins Ice-cream needed a supplier in Brisbane after the demise of the Solomon Foods business. At the time a key employee from our Wagga office was looking for a move north and the planets aligned. Sam Jackson now has 4 staff and runs a couple of trucks in Brisbane metro for our key accounts.

The opportunity that came Superior's way in Sydney was a family business in Smithfield, and the acquisition went through in May, 2011. Money Saver Foods had 26 staff, 12 trucks and turned around $20m per annum at the time of the acquisition. Previous owners, the Liaros family, sold the business their family had built over 20 years, and Victor Liaros stayed on as GM for Superior in Sydney. Victor remains committed to helping Superior be successful in this very challenging market.

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2013: Onwards

In 2013, with the Sydney business firmly embedded in the Superior stable, the numbers became pretty serious. With over 180 staff the turnover increased to well over $100m, and the fleet of delivery vehicles exceeded 50. Key accounts like Catering Industries supported Superior's move into Sydney and new additions in My Local Foodie and the Melbourne Convention Centre started being supplied by Superior in Melbourne.

In the same year, Superior expanded further by securing Domino's pizza business in the Newcastle region of NSW. "Winning Newcastle was a recognition from our largest account that Superior could now provide national solutions for our future business partners," explains Craig. This significant account was a great acknowledgement of the hard work of Superior's NSW team in turning the old Money Savers business into a genuine branch of Superior.

In November of 2013 Superior acquired the Hellene Food distribution company in Brisbane, adding to its contract business in Queensland. Hellene was a Greek family business with around $11m turnover per annum and a strong presence in kebab shops and takeaways. "Hellene was important for us in that we needed a presence in foodservice to be able to supply our key national accounts in Queensland," reflects Craig, "but it probably wasn't the best business we've bought and the transition was a challenge." For some of the staff members that lived through those first few weeks, this is quite the understatement--but once the dust settled, Superior added some key people and accounts to the Brisbane branch, which is now a force to be reckoned with in Brissy!

With all that happened, 2014 would have been a time to consolidate - but with over 20% growth, there was no sign of slowing down. Opportunities were in abundance, as Superior had clearly become the third major player, an alternative to the tried big two. Craig recalls: "In 2014, people that I'd been trying to call for years were calling me to see if we were interested in their business - it was amazing! The experience gained and the relationships built are definitely going to stand us in good stead for future opportunities."

Turnover increased to around $140 in 2014 and staff numbers exceeded 250 (including four gentlemen in their 70s who have enjoyed employment with Superior for many years). One of the employees, 74-year-old Noel Dawson, joined the Superior team at the time of the Beand acquisition in 2001. When Craig recently asked Noel how he was handling full time work as a driver, Noel responded: "Well, Craig, I might need to consider part time at some stage - how about we look at it in around 18 months?" Noel is nothing short of a legend at Superior!

With sales soaring to over $160m for FY15, the Company again raised the bar with the purchase of UCG Foods from Conga on May 1st, 2015. This is the first time that Superior has acquired a multi-state distribution business and the addition of Conga's great brands, combined with Superior's service capabilities, should provide a perfect solution for many end users. UCG was attractive to Superior not only because of its existing customer base in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane (where UCG could be merged with Superior's existing infrastructure), but also because of its customers in Adelaide, where Superior could establish new foodservice branches on the back of the UCG's business.

The UCG acquisition took Superior to over 300 staff members, added a further 12 trucks to the fleet, and has sent the turnover soaring towards $200m in 2015/16.

Superior Sydney also took a giant leap forward in 2015 by leasing a 8,500m² space in Ingleburn, in Sydney's west. Moving into this new facility ended a particularly demanding period for the Sydney team, as Craig and Michael had purchased a large property in Winston Hills two years earlier but the business had been unable to move in due to council restrictions on truck movements. "We explored the council regulations prior to buying that site, but a restriction on the size of trucks entering the site at certain hours impacted its long term viability. The silly thing is the council, by restricting our usage, lost us when we sold the property and, in doing so, lost a number of employment opportunities for their constituents," Craig recalls.

The old Money Savers warehouse in Smithfield was less than 2,000m² and restricted Superior's business in its development and performance. With over four times the floor space, and double the height, Superior has a home to grow into for many years ahead.

Asked about the journey so far Craig and Michael are noticeably proud. "Superior Food Services has a future well beyond the two of us. We take great pride in our ability to create and nurture a business that not only supports people and their families but also leaves a positive impact on their lives. We are a team who care about each other and we work together to achieve great things. Why wouldn't we be proud?"

This story is still a work in progress and the pages that are yet to be written are filled with promise and exciting times. Watch this space.



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