In 1986 Steve and Jo Mitcham began supplying fruit and vegetables to businesses around Perth and in the country. Trading as Wholesale Fresh, and with Steve’s sister Sue, they used their 12 years industry experience to grow the business into a major West Australian wholesaler within a few short years.

Initially produce was sourced from the markets in West Perth where the auction system still operated. Steve describes the unique experience of buying under this system:

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“Back then buying was a real challenge and it took considerable skill, not only to get the right price, but also the right product. At 5am (after 30 minutes inspection time) the siren would sound and at least ten different auction sales would start in different locations around the markets. You literally had to run from one to another so as not to miss out. The West Perth Markets were built in the horse and buggy days and consisted of raised sections, where the produce was stacked, with alleyways in between where the buggys (and later trucks) could park and easily wheel the produce straight onto the vehicle. Clambering up and down the raised sections moving from one auction sale to the next certainly kept you very fit!!!”

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In 1991 the new markets were built in Canning Vale, with plenty of warehouse space available. Wholesale Fresh moved to the new complex and began trading as Country Pak Wholesalers. At this time both Steve’s Mum and Dad worked in the business, Marty in the office and Peter doing some of the buying. Being located at Market City had some immediate advantages with greater access to growers, a reduction in costs, and more time to inspect and barter for stock (the auction system did not continue at Market City and was replaced by private treaty).

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Andrew Taylor was appointed manager and took over the sourcing, selection, and pricing of the produce in 2001. Andrew had joined Country Pak in 1997 after having worked in both the Hospitality and Fruit and Vegetable industries. As a qualified chef by trade, Andrew has first-hand experience of the needs and wants of the industry and is passionate about meeting those expectations. Andrew describes his thoughts about the importance of the whole team at Country Pak:

“Over the years Country Pak has grown steadily, continually expanding staff and facilities to match our diverse and growing customer base. This is a direct result of our commitment to providing a consistently high quality of product and service. Making the needs of our customers our highest priority, not compromising on quality, and continually seeking to find new and better ways of handling the produce has meant that we have enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship with many of our customers, some for over 24 years.”

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In 2013 Phil Barker joined Country Pak as assistant manager. Phil has a corporate background and brought with him a wealth of procedural and organisational knowledge. As well as assisting Andrew with the purchasing of stock and customer relations Phil has been instrumental in guiding the staff at Country Pak through the HAACAP process. Being HAACAP approved means that Country Pak has consistently met the highest industry standards when it comes to the handling of fresh produce.

Wholesale Fresh and then Country Pak has always been a family-run business employing many members of both the Mitcham and Tramontana families right up until the present day. That sense of family – loyalty, commitment, honesty also continues to inform all that we do at Country Pak.

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