Nick Vetrone is not unlike Victor Kiam, the man who famously loved Remington products so much, he bought the company.
Now with fewer, better quality labels that match his products' reputation for excellence, the new victor is Vetrone.
Tradition is the pillar of Vetrone's Barkly Smokehouse business in Footscray Melbourne. When he felt he needed to have a firmer grip over his delicatessen offering, he bought its major supplier. The recognition of history and tradition continues, with one notable exception – the installation of a state-of-the-art labelling system by insignia. The impact has been dramatic.
Vetrone, part owner of the company since 2004, is a perfectionist. For him, the flavour and value of the third generation delicatessen manufacturer can never be compromised. And he goes to extraordinary lengths to ensure the tradition is faithfully preserved. For many years a transport contractor for Ansett, the airline's collapse in 2002 meant a substantial career change. He decided to concentrate on his love of quality food and bought into in a delicatessen at Melbourne's famous Queen Victoria market. By 2004, the then Barkly Continental had become his biggest supplier of top grade, handmade specialty European style hams, sausages, and other pickled and smoked pork products.
"I was a part owner in the Polish deli at the Vic market. I could see that a lot of non-European Australians would sometimes hang back from trying our products. But the products sell themselves. It just needed the right story and the sight and smell could do the rest. Once you'd tasted the products, that was it.
"I wanted greater control of my products and to keep them traditional, to keep the experience genuine. It's a unique set of recipes. So I bought the business," he says.
Why then would a company so fiercely bent on preserving tradition embrace the most contemporary labelling system in Australia? Vetrone says the constant tightening of food hygiene, packaging, information and labelling laws means traditional companies like Barkly have to look for every handling efficiency they can.
In the past, all Barkly products carried two labels, a product and company branding label and a separate consumer information sticker, totalling an annual 200,000 manually applied labels. The insignia automated system now connects a weigh-scale, a laptop computer and a printer to produce a pre-coded, individually weight-accurate label for every single item off the production line. The labels supply all the information required by law, and more: weight, contents, nutritional data, use-by date, preservative information, packaging and use by dates and storage recommendations. The insignia solution reduces label quantities by half, decreases labour and increases production speed.
"Boyd Rose [from insignia's Variable Information Printing team] spent a good deal of time with us. He helped spec the system and as far as I know we are the first to implement it. We could have gone to a printer, but what insignia's done has given us the flexibility to run it ourselves," Vetrone says.
Boyd Rose from insignia said: "Barkly traditionally used a weigh-scale label printer. It limited them to the number of products they could input into the scale's memory. Any new products information changes would need a programmer to come in at their cost.
"Also, scale-printers have limited fonts, sizes and layouts so the label was very bland. Barkly was applying two labels – a branding label which was attractive to the customer and a secondary nutritional label that complied to the industry's labelling laws. Changes to labelling requirements happens a lot in the small goods sector and mean even more cost to the customer," he said.
Rose adds the aim of the insignia solution was to eliminate traditional restrictions, improve productivity and reduce costs. The new system uses an industrial label printer, labelling software and an industrial weigh-scale.
All label design work is done in Bartender, a Microsoft-based labelling software. The benefits of the solution offer:
- flexibility of choice with a wide range of fonts
- simple lay-out changes able to be made internally
- attractive product labels
- peace of mind through full compliance with nutritional labelling laws
- major savings with a 50 percent reduction in label costs
- easy access to and manipulation of data in a straightforward Excel file
- broad functionality with most current weight scales
- simple overall operation – place product on scale, enter product code and press print for instant labels.
Vetrone positions the business at the super premium end of the smallgoods market. Its products have an expanded following at the Queen Victoria market and in some of Melbourne's up-market delis and caterers, as well IGA supermarkets. Among them is the exclusive King and Godfrey's of Carlton where Barkly's Grandmother ham is one of its top sellers.
Vetrone says Barkly products use minimal salt and just enough water to ensure an even cooking or pickling prior to hot smoking using only selected redgum.
As a result, his products display a 'delicious variation' in colour and appearance true to the nature of a hand-made product. Like a fine wine, texture is highly prized. Now Barkly's labels reflect the same high standard and quality as their products.