A Cut Above

Andrews Meat

From humble beginnings come lofty ambitions. Andrews Meat is a success story that symbolises the entrepreneurial spirit. Currently, Andrews Meat Industries is one of the nation’s largest independent wholesalers. How does this business flourish? What is the formula for its success in a very competitive market? One could argue that this kind of success is garnered through those bonds which cannot be broken – the family. We spoke with Michael Andrews, one of three brothers who co-own the business, about its beginnings, its achievements, and its future.

Peter Andrews started the business as a small butcher shop in Paddington, Sydney in 1960. From there Andrews Meat expanded its facilities and became a food export business in the 1970s. While the company did export to the US, the concentration was mainly on local businesses, exclusive markets, and customers. The company’s expansion since has centred less on the retail side, and more into the food service industry, providing total meat solutions to the NSW club, restaurant and catering markets for over forty years.

Andrews Meat is owned and operated as a family business. “I have two brothers who are also co-owners,” says Michael. “Harry, Peter and I manage different components of the business. Our father is chairman of the board.” In terms of its product selection, it is really “A to Z,” says Michael. Andrews Meats offers staples such as beef, veal, pork, lamb and poultry, but also caters to customers seeking specialised products, such as kangaroo, venison, and other game meats. The company even works with crocodile for the rare client who requests them, and offers a full range of quality smallgoods, sausages, and charcuterie.

The company’s diversification of its product range is echoed in its broad presence throughout the industry. Andrews Meat services a variety of markets, including industrial and corporate caterers, high end restaurants, pubs, major hotel groups, and resorts. While its largest markets are in Sydney and NSW, the company is also expanding into Queensland, and exports to Hawaii, Japan, and China, explains Michael. Andrews Meats has developed niche products for these markets, and looks to product differentiation and brand recognition to remain competitive.

Another element of the company’s expansion can be seen in its facility at Lidcombe in Sydney. It took four years of searching, locating and redeveloping this site, which sits on 20,000 square metres, but Andrews Meat is now able to cover its storage needs in-house, rather than relying on a third party. This in turn enables the company to reduce costs associated with logistics, inventory and distribution. “In addition to that, we have a high tech process for packaging, so the productivity gain has been immediate – we have become self-sufficient,” says Michael.

Michael tells us about the company’s commitment to quality service without compromise. Quality standards and compliance with industry regulations in the wholesale meat industry are of course very stringent. Accordingly, Andrews Meat decided to increase its compliance factor in order to grow and prosper. The minimum standard is HACCP and a license by the NSW Food Authority. “The new facility,” Michael explains, “provides a complete culture and environment where everything from intake to dispatch is done at its optimum temperature.” With onsite chilling, the latest vacuum packaging technology and a strong safety culture, Andrews Meat keeps quality top of mind, and ensures that only the best possible product reaches the consumer.

The company maintains strong traceability for all its products. If there is a problem out in the field with a certain cut or with the packaging, it can be traced back to individual packers on the production floor. “If there is an issue with the product beyond our control (i.e. a producer issue), DNA testing is available to ensure that we can trace it back to its roots.” There is a grading system called MSA (Meat Standards Australia) which removes any complications from a retail perspective – defective product can be traced back to the producer. Andrews Meat is one of the largest MSA portion cutters in Australia.

In addition to safety and quality, another key aspect to Andrews Meat’s success is the company’s commitment to customer service. The company maintains fulltime sales reps, who have worked as chefs, to service clients, report on any issues and advise on the best product and brand solution for their needs. “It takes a lot of effort to bring product to market,” Michael explains, “especially in creating brand awareness for our new brands as well as our distributor brands.”

The company is competitive with its pricing, but Michael emphasises that it is the quality and variety of products that primarily keep clients coming back to Andrews Meat. Never complacent in this area, the team recently entered some choice cuts into the Royal Queensland Wine and Food Show. Through a branding program they had developed a range of full blood Wagyu and entered it into the competition. It was an exercise to gain feedback and benchmark the product against what was being offered in the industry, the company’s “first foray into this competition,” says Michael. “We ended up winning the Best Beef category, and the Best Brand category in the show. It is a great recognition for the product, and it will also help our customers sell the product.”

That brand is called Shiro Kin, “White Gold” in Japanese. This is a new designation. The other brand, Tajima still exists which is an Angus/wagyu cross product, but Shiro Kin takes it to the next level, where crossing Shimane and Kedaka line full blood females with Tajima Bulls. “This new line was developed in conjunction with one of our producers and with their assistance and expertise, coupled with our marketing push, to get the product to market. We have become the standard now for Full Blood Wagyu.”

As in any business, Andrews Meat sees its share of challenges. Coming out of the GFC, the biggest issue seems to be securing its client base. The company is seeing an increase in default rates and a high proportion of business failures within a short period of time, as many businesses are not receiving sufficient bank support. Andrews Meat’s strategy is one of due diligence, examining sales trends within companies to determine their viability. “We need to identify those problems early on,” says Michael, “or we leave ourselves exposed. It’s tough to know how a private company will operate in the future; we have no balance sheets to look over. We do have a screening process so as to select who we want to have a business relationship with, because at the end of the day you want someone you can work with. We have an obligation to pay our producers, after all. We have a great credit rating with our producers and suppliers, and we can’t afford to jeopardise that. We rely on the integrity of our clients.”

Ultimately, support from the producer is fundamental in this whole process. “Our expertise lies in marketing, processing and distribution of product but the producer must ensure consistent supply and quality into the system to ensure the success of any program,” says Michael. An example is the Cape Grim brand out of Tasmania: “Greenham Australia are committed to their Cape Grim brand and are very supportive of us, their distributor, in servicing the increasing demand for naturally pasture fed product in retail and food service markets.”

As for the future of Andrews Meat, Michael emphasise that the company in this for the long term. A growing part of its strategy for the future will include continued expansion within territories, countries, and the fully cooked product market. Not just food service, but retail service will be a main proponent of this expansion. Woolworths has given the company a venue in which to enter this growing market, and the company will do so by offering the innovative and speciality products that have always set it apart.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

December 19, 2018, 5:33 PM AEDT