An independently owned Australian family business that was originally established to meet a gap in the market, Australian Food Ingredient Suppliers (AFIS) has established a reputation in the food industry for quick response times, high-quality food ingredient products and a commitment to customer service.
AFIS managing director Graeme Dossetor spoke to foodprocessing-technology.com about the importance of product development and innovation to satisfy constantly evolving consumer preferences and trends.
AFIS is now a third generation family business – how did it all begin?
In 1983 my father, John Dossetor and two of his friends had seen there was a gap in the food flavouring industry, manufacturing flavours for smaller customers, and so AFIS began.
AFIS was originally established in a factory in Terry Hills, but by 1985 it was relocated to its current location in Brookvale.
How did you become involved in the business?
Business was tight at the start and any money made was reinvested back into growing the company, so there was no income. Because of this, the other two families bowed out and both my parents worked full time to survive. By 1989, the business was stagnating and it needed fresh input.
At the time I was living in Western Australia, working as a civil engineer, and I had just got engaged, so my fiancé and I made the decision to return to Sydney and I decided to join the family business.
Coming into the business from a civil engineering background meant I had a lot of experience in overseeing costs, was able to look at things objectively, and quickly pick up what products and processes were not working well.
How has the company grown since it was established in the early 80s?
After I became the managing director in 1993 I spent the rest of that decade culling the products to focus on our strengths and to cater for customers’ demands.
As we grew the business, we invested in infrastructure such as bigger mixers and forklifts for the factory, as well as new technologies and technical expertise in blending, which allowed us to work in partnership with our customers to develop customised flavours and colours for their businesses.
By the year 2000, we began research into export potential and we began exporting into Asia in 2003. Our company was growing so we expanded our factory into a second unit in 2006.
What do you think has driven this success?
Our incredible team and company culture have really driven the growth and success of AFIS.
We’re a third generation family business but to be honest, all of our team feel like family. Everybody understands the business and is able to multitask, and every staff member has a strong working relationship with and looks after all of our customers.
This team ethos allows us to be quick off the mark and very responsive to our customers. We work together to come up with solutions – everyone has a part to play.
Another factor in our success has been our investment in technology and expertise in blending because it has removed our reliance on other people, made us more versatile, and helps with our speed and turnaround on orders.
We also maintain great relationships with all of our suppliers. This relationship is a very important part of our strategy.
What have been the biggest challenges while running your business?
Initially AFIS was not making much money and cash flow was a big problem. This took ten years to get under control. Then, during the global financial crisis, bad debts became much higher; we lost a quarter of our business, but we were lucky compared to many other companies who went under.
Finding factory workers in this area has also been a struggle over the years.
What makes AFIS special?
Our philosophy has always been to look after the chain — our customers, our people and our suppliers. We trust them and they know they can trust us.
Our highly experienced team of food technologists have the equipment, the experience and the ability to work in partnership with customers from many different industries: food, beverage, brewing, cosmetic and pharmaceutical.
We try to help wherever we can and we have a great knowledge base in our technical team. AFIS is not price driven. We’re price competitive but our business is built on taking our time to understand our customers’ businesses and work in partnership with them to develop new products that stand out in a crowded and highly competitive market.
Where do you see your business in five years’ time?
As a market leader in the design, manufacture and supply of quality flavours, colours and food ingredient blends to the food industry, we will continue to evolve to meet the market demand for new and exciting lines.
We will always be firmly focused on our relationships with our customers, our people and our suppliers.
We also want to give back more and further develop our philanthropy process. Because relationships and giving back are what lies behind the success of a family business like AFIS.