Home grown and family owned, 41 years of innovation has seen Barker’s of Geraldine extend beyond the farmhouse kitchen and into the homes of families across Australasia.
Eight kilometres from Geraldine and nestled alongside the Four Peaks Range, a modest yet highly productive fruit processing plant works around the clock to produce premium quality jams and fruit preserves for international distribution. Where farmhouses once stood, office space takes prime position. And giant sheds housing farm equipment have been replaced by state-of-the-art fruit processing machinery.
a key part of our growth story has been appointing Rabobank – a bank that understands the needs of our business.
For Michael Barker, Managing Director of Barker’s of Geraldine, the transformation of his father’s humble farm into a preserve powerhouse has been a generation in the making. “Not many rural businesses have survived over the years and if they have, they’ve moved into the big cities. Barker’s is still growing after more than 40 years and sits on the same patch of land that it always has,” said Michael.
Four decades ago, Michael’s father, Anthony Barker, earned his stripes in the fruit trade while making elderberry and strawberry wine – utilising locally sourced wild and cultivated berries.
A foray into fruit processing in 1981 to make use of an excess supply of blackcurrants became the start of a fruit empire that employs 150 staff, has a turnover exceeding $40 million and processes more than 1000 tonnes of New Zealand fruit annually.
Michael said it was a tough decision for the family to move away from fruit winemaking as it was so fundamental to the successful start of their business, but it became clear the business was moving in another direction. At an early stage in their growth, Barker’s appointed a Board of Directors to ensure stability and provide sound advice and governance.
“That’s been a key part of our growth story, as has appointing Rabobank – a bank that understands the needs of our business,” said Michael. “The Board was able to steer the ship in the right direction, whilst we focused on producing exceptional products. Its direction also helped us to avoid some of the problems faced by other family businesses.”
After years of organic growth, the family purchased the iconic jam and pickle business Anathoth in 2007 and soon after formed a partnership with the Tandoori Palace restaurant chain to manufacture and market authentic Indian sauces. The Anathoth brand is now stocked in Coles and Woolworths supermarkets around Australia, which has created significant growth opportunities for the business.
“Each of these endeavours built on what we were good at – utilising quality ingredients to create the best flavours – and it’s exciting to watch our market share grow as a result,” said Michael.
Despite the rapid rise of the Barker’s fruit empire, it’s the family culture and values that have been instilled in the business that Michael is most proud of. “There’s definitely a special sense of pride in our business that we look to cultivate as we grow,” he said. “We don’t get out of bed to make money and we’ve never taken that approach. We get out of bed to make the very best products, be the best that we can be, and create a world class business right here in Geraldine.”
You get the feeling that Barker’s has created the right mix to see them prosper for another 41 years.