The Antico Story

Fresh from Italy, a new company is born

Nestled in Italy’s Calabrian countryside is the town of Terra Nova Sappo Minulio.  An agricultural region for centuries, the area is rich in vineyards and orchards the fruits of which ignite a fierce passion for fresh produce amongst its local population.  It is here, amid the plantations and orchards that our Antico story begins.

In 1923, after the end of the First World War, Guiseppe Antico migrated to Australia from Terra Nova bringing this fierce passion with him.  Some six years later he was able to save enough to bring over his wife Concetta and his two young sons, Rocco and Vincenzo.

Guiseppe and Concetta had an additional five children; Frances, Joe, Tony, Rose and Attilio, later known as John.  After several small business ventures, Guiseppe settled his family into a fruit shop in the suburb of Mascot, near Sydney airport.

During these early years, the family lived and worked in the fruit shop, securing the best produce in the area for their customers.  As the children grew, it became clear expansion was necessary to support the family and in the early 1950s when Guiseppe retired, Joe, Tony and John had the vision to open a Fresh Produce company.  With an inherited passion for the freshest and best, the trio were responsible for the start of the now industry-leading Antico business.

Antico reaches for the skies

The Antico Fruit shop proved to be a major success amongst the locals and it wasn’t long before the Antico entrepreneurs found a way to expand the business further.  Adjoining Mascot were the industrial suburbs of Botany, Waterloo, Alexandria and Surry Hills, steeped with factories catering for staff through their on-site canteens.  Many of the workers in these factories were loyal customers of the Mascot Fruit Shop and were aware of the consistent quality and choice.  It was this dedication to providing the best that led to the successful securing of numerous food service orders to supply fruit and vegetables to these canteens when the Antico boys canvassed the area.

In the early 1950s Antico’s reputation and locality was at the forefront of the decision by what was then known as Trans Australia Airlines (TAA) to invite them to supply the domestic airline with their in-flight catering requirements.  The customer list would later grow to include Ansett-ANA in-flight catering, followed closely by QANTAS Airways Limited, the latter of which secured Antico’s fresh produce for the next twenty years.

It was this very relationship with the airlines that led to the next evolution of the Antico company.  Around 1956, Qantas commenced a fortnightly flight to Noumea, New Caledonia and offered Antico the opportunity to be on the inaugural flight to research whether an air cargo business could be established on future flights.  With the aim of servicing local island importers, Qantas and Antico were keen to improve export cargo and product opportunities, which at that time were limited in quality and freshness since fresh produce was entering the country solely by sea.

The youngest Antico brother John, being the most recent school leaver and with three years of school-boy French, was elected to board the flight.  The trip was hugely successful for the Antico business and the first of many international relationships was cemented.  Local supermarkets and wholesalers in Noumea, which had been unable to secure supplies of more perishable products by sea, embraced the service and the opportunities it would bring to their businesses.  Airfreight was the answer.

By 1958, Antico Providoring had outgrown its Mascot retail premises.  The Antico entrepreneurs moved the business to a warehouse space in Haymarket Fruit Market in order to commence a food service/export business dedicated to servicing the growing market opportunities and trends.

From providores to exporters – pioneering a new idea

As the airline industry powered into the Jet Age the company’s existing relationships were to be the backbone of Antico’s future business, planting the seed for the next phase from Providore to Exporter. Antico continued working with the major airlines to help move local products to newly established export markets, where previously sea freight had been the only option.

It was mostly apples, oranges and pears that could be sent by sea freight, however, Antico’s air freight access allowed the company to offer a huge increase in the choice of export products. This included stone fruits such as peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots and cherries as well as table grapes and vegetables such as broccoli, lettuce and cauliflower for the first time in Australian history.

Due to unparalleled demand, Antico wound down the Providoring part of the business and export became its new focus. With the successful Noumea experiences and growth of air cargo underway, it seemed only natural to look further afield to New Guinea, the Solomon and Pacific Islands.

With the commencement of new flight paths into Asia, again with the need to fill cargo requirements,  Antico began airfreighting fresh produce into Singapore and continued to expand into Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong – transporting  wherever Australian Quarantine allowed its products to go.

In 1975, the Sydney Fruit Market was moved out of the inner city and into Flemington.  Antico International Pty Ltd, as it was then known, moved into new state-of-the-art warehouse facilities.  At that time, it was one of the few export companies with its own air and sea loading facilities right in the heart of the produce market.

As the business grew, Antico secured a reputation for its procurement and the family began building direct relationships with growers to ensure an integral supply chain met the needs of their ever growing customer base.  Many of these relationships remain today.  Capable of turning around same day farm fresh deliveries onto air pallets and into sea containers, Antico secured its place as leaders in the industry.

By 1980, the Antico business had expanded exponentially and due to a back injury, Joe Antico, one of the original entrepreneurs of the trio, was unable to continue working.   Antico sold a quarter of the business to nephews Joe and Sam who had grown up in their father Vince’s well known retail fruit shop in Sydney’s Rose Bay and had also inherited the passion for the finest quality fresh produce.

The brothers helped Tony and John to grow the business further and it was during this period that Antico became known as the largest exporter of air freight fresh fruit and vegetables on the east coast of Australia.  In 1990, Joe and Sam returned to their retail roots and purchased a fruit shop in Northbridge, which remains there today although is now under new ownership.

Antico International continued on, trading into Europe, air lifting fresh produce to France, Holland, Amsterdam, and London as well as continuing to air freight hundreds of tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables to the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, The Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar) up until the Desert Storm War of the 1990s.

Industry and country recognition

Keen to share his knowledge and passion, John became heavily involved in key industry task forces and government committees culminating in Antico International being awarded the Australian Export Award for Outstanding Export Achievement from the Australian Trade Commission in 1986.

In 1989, The Queen’s Birthday Honours List awarded John a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM) and in 1999 The Australian Institute of Export nominated and awarded John The Export Hero Award for export achievements in the industry.

Moving into a fresh future

The 1990s saw a progressive global and local slowdown in economies of all industries and Antico commenced looking for wider integrated opportunities. In the late 1990s, the company changed tack in response to research into Australia’s lifestyle changes.  The company identified the growing local consumer demand for a year round supply of seasonal products fuelled by the country’s growing health initiatives, burgeoning supermarket businesses and the birth of Australia’s modern love affair with food.

Antico began sourcing fresh produce from overseas producers to be imported into Australia, as well as relaunching its expert wholesale division.  The company again focussed on direct product supply from growers with whom it had long standing export associations, as well as venturing into several partnerships in farm ownership in order to guarantee product supply.

Today, Tony and John are still actively involved in the daily business of selecting, packing, transporting and warehousing the highest quality fresh fruit and vegetables.   After many years working in the wider business community and a childhood of colourful Flemington Market work experiences, Tony’s daughter, Summer Antico, joined the business in 2003 to work alongside Hugh Molloy, Antico International’s now General Manager.  Over the past 20 years, Hugh has played a pivotal role in helping to expand the company under the guide-ship of John and Tony.  Now CEO, Summer and Hugh are working together to move the company into the future ensuring it will continue as a modern and successful business with the strength of a solid, expert reputation – born from its long involvement with the industry – by a family committed to quality, service and growth.