Food for Thought

Food for Thought

The heartfelt stories behind one of hospitality’s favourite fruit and vegetable wholesalers.

Homegrown right here in Queensland, Simon George & Sons has been cultivating positive change in some of the most integral areas of hospitality for close to a century.

And it’s a good thing too, because behind the fresh produce that stars on the plates of our venues are the local farmers, retailers, and growers who not only sustain and nourish the entire state, but also work hard to make foodservice a healthier industry for everyone.

As a family business currently led by fourth-generation fruit and vegetable purveyors, Ben and Jack George, Simon George & Sons has a focus on supporting the wellbeing, philanthropy, and sustainability of Australia’s foodservice market.

Most recently, the business has partnered with one of the country’s largest not-for-profit kitchen operators, FareShare, who cook free meals from rescued and donated ingredients to feed people going through hardship.

Since being introduced to the charity via End Waste Australia in December last year, the Aussie fruit and vegetable wholesaler has already donated over six tonnes of produce, equating to 15,000 meals for community members in need.

Simon George & Sons chief of staff, Emily Eastman, said donations can vary daily, but are generally imperfect produce in bulk quantities that their clients don’t have the capacity to take.

“A couple of months ago, when all roads to the Northern Territory were flooding, we had a truck of produce that had to return to Brisbane after two days on the road. This was directed to FareShare, who made it into amazing meals for people in need.

“FareShare receive and make meals to freeze that same day. Some examples include a recent donation of 200 kilograms of lemons, which were made into lemon chicken meals.

“We are working closely with FareShare to upcycle our process team surplus. This includes broccoli and cauliflower stems, potato skins, and many more sliced and diced produce lines,” she said.

Simon George & Sons has been intrinsically connected to the grassroots hospitality community since 1927, when Ben and Jack’s great-grandfather started trading fresh, high-quality fruit and veggies.

Emily said the family business has grown a lot from its humble beginnings, and they’re proud to now operate across five Aussie locations under the capable hands of fourth-generation leaders.

“Over time, we’ve built loyal partnerships with some of Australia’s leading hotels, restaurants, retailers, and institutions, not to mention countless amazing local farmers in the foodservice industry.

“We have grown through the nurturing of relationships that reciprocate communal respect. After all, you only get out what you put in,” she said.

Access to fresh produce can be a challenge for venues in more remote parts of Australia, which is why Simon George & Sons are major suppliers to 50 remote communities across the Northern Territory, North Queensland, and the Torres Strait.

Beyond the mere supply of fresh produce, the brand also conducts training programs outlining nutrition, safe food handling, storage, safe cutting techniques, rotation, and the display of fresh produce to help close the gap on education, employment, and nutrition.

Emily said 97% of their fruit and vegetables are also grown on Australian soil, with 25% being farmer-direct produce.

“This means our customers get the freshest produce while supporting local farmers. We conduct regular farm visits to offer our customers a glimpse into the origins of our amazing fruits and veggies, encompassing the entire process from cultivation to consumption.

“As a family of growers, it’s also natural that we look after our people and communities, whether that’s through our free employee counselling service, volunteering, or delivering quality nutrition to those who need it most.

“We provide education to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in which we operate and make sure to spotlight diverse indigenous growers through our platforms,” she said.

As sustainable innovation and eco-conscious education become more prevalent in our day-to-day lives, it’s no doubt that hotels, pubs, bars, cafés, and restaurants are looking to reduce their impact on the environment. Often, this comes down to waste management, the use of renewable energy, and where venues source their produce.

In addition to doing their part to make sure as many Australians as possible have access to fresh, healthy, and nutritious food, Simon George & Sons have also thrown themselves into plenty of green initiatives over the years.

Emily said this includes everything from energy-efficient technology and solar power integration to emission reduction machinery, grey water recycling, rainwater collection, onsite waste recycling, and green packaging.

“As a family business, looking after one another comes first, so it’s only natural for us to take care of the planet and the people on which we depend.

“We live in a warmer and wilder Australia, so we acknowledge the need to adapt, innovate, and act responsibly for our communities and the land on which we call home.

“It’s always been in our nature as a fruit and vegetable wholesaler to run a fresh produce business that operates with industry-leading environmental awareness top-of-mind.

“Especially considering the very thing we do relies on a healthy planet!” she said.

Simon George & Sons are also proud participants in the Australian Food Pact – a voluntary agreement that brings together businesses to help tackle Australia’s annual $36.6 billion worth of food waste.

The pact aims to halve food waste in Australia by 2030 while making the national food system more competitive, sustainable, resilient, and circular. As the first in their industry to sign the agreement, Emily said that Simon George & Sons hope to peel back the layers of food waste in the coming years.

“We’ve been exploring biodegradable and home-compostable alternatives to plastic packaging as well, but quality and food safety remain barriers. Food waste is more straightforward, and we’re making sure it gets put to good use.

“Embracing practical innovations and applying industry-best practices lies at the essence of our country’s signature paddock to plate experience. Rain, hail, or shine, we’re always here for our much-loved Aussie hospitality family,” she said.