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Industry Profile: Innovator in the biscuit industry

28 March, 2006

Sam Tucker, 31, Managing Director of the Great Australian Baking Company swapped careers ten years ago when he’d had enough of working in the hospitality industry.

By Jennifer Perry

When family investors took over the Mount Barker Bakery, a large manufacturer of Adelaide’s weekend bread and a contractor of The Great Australian Gingerbread Co, Sam worked his way into the day to day management of the company. He took a risk and bought the financially flailing Great Australian Gingerbread Co. He moved both the administration and manufacturing of the business away from the Mount Barker Bakery and subsequently took control of the company’s destiny.

Being a young Managing Director has meant there are some who haven’t taken Sam Tucker seriously, but after nine years in business he now boasts a group of companies with a combined annual turnover of around $4 million, doubling their turnover in the first six months of this year alone.

Sam’s initial vision was to run the largest manufacturing business of hand decorated and licensed gingerbread cookies in Australia.
The business has expanded to include icing imaging and other baked products such as chocolate and shortbread cookies and is now involved in markets outside Australia.

The success of Sam’s management of the fledgling business lies, in his own words, in having both the vision and drive to “achieve no matter what.”

With some saying that there is little future for manufacturing in Australia due to the constant pressure on companies to compete with imported products, Sam agrees that the manufacturing of non-perishable items will be increasingly driven further offshore.

“We have little choice because we have such a fiercely competitive retail sector that’s dominated by two major players, particularly in the grocery side,” he says.

“However, I think things like fresh produce will remain relatively safe. It’s really going to be the highly specialised, technology-driven manufacturing that will be the key to remaining Australian.”

While Sam says that economic factors such as remaining price competitive need to be considered when making decisions on sourcing ingredients and packaging, he supports local economies through his preference of buying locally (South Australian), and then nationally.

Something that struck Sam when travelling in Asian countries and witnessing their manufacturing capabilities firsthand, was their ability to work together and collaborate between businesses. “This is an area where improvements can definitely be made by Australian manufacturers, and that is currently slowing us down.”

In order to take the group of companies’ current financial success and competitiveness into the future, Sam has structured four different companies that fulfill four core functions - manufacturing, distribution, merchandising and brokerage.

“GABCo, Sunripe and Glowco sell their products to FSS our distribution arm (as well as their own distributors), with these products then sold to major retailers in Australia. The companies also sell products to each other to enable them to add value to their own individual product offers,” said Sam.

“From each individual company we also flow out into other businesses that, through our supply chain (that includes - Kelloggs, Arnotts, Bellis and Berri, etc.), we co-operate with very closely, right through to our highly specialised suppliers like our icing imaging supplier. The group of companies creates increased buying power throughout our supply chain.”

Sam says that while his company is heavily involved in licensing and closely follows licensing trends at times they’ve had to take a gamble on what kinds of license will be successful. Their AFL license was one such example.

“This license targets a broad spectrum of consumers and as such we thought we would see a growth in sales. The result was quite the opposite. This did however teach us a valuable lesson for these products, in that our target market is 4-12 year old children, and that we need to work with licenses that specifically target this market segment.”

With a self-professed passion for building businesses, Sam Tucker continues to look for opportunities and continues to build on the base of his companies’ core competencies.

He is currently building relationships with those looking to break into the international retail sector both here and overseas; is forming strategic partnerships with companies that have specialised production capabilities, as well as working with established distributors for each type of product in order to continue to bring the group’s products to international markets.

“As far as personal achievement and getting the business to where I want it to go, I think we’re just starting to scratch the surface…I’d like to build an empire and I’m on my way to building my empire. The next ten years should be worth watching.”

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