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Taking stock


“The entire community is in this together, so we should be supporting each other and doing the right thing – this will enable the economy to bounce back faster and stronger.” Mike Murray founder and owner of Prestige Foods


Image: Mike Murray.

The first thing that strikes me when I meet Mike Murray is his charisma. I have a sneaking suspicion it has played a huge role in the success of his business.


Mike, founder and owner of Prestige Foods, has been in the industry for a long time – more than 30 years in fact. And he’s never sat on his hands, embracing change to align the business to suit the changes in the market.


Fuelled by his personality, that model was adopted early on as a way to safeguard the company - and it’s one that has come in very handy today.


It was in the early 1980s when Mike and his business partner Ross Pearce walked into an ANZ branch on St Kilda Rd in Melbourne, looking for a loan to start a new business.


On securing the funding they needed to get started ($20,000) Mike said to the banker – “you will never, ever regret this.”


Just three short years later, that $20,000 turned into a multi-million-dollar business and Mike and Ross have not looked back.


Taking stock to the world (and back)


The business was International Food Processing Pty Ltd and it became Australia’s largest exporter of mutton and butter to the Soviet Union between 1984-1992. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, a serious change of vision was required, leading the business to export to the Russian Far East.


Then, in 1989, almost out of the blue, the company was approached to make stock in Australia exclusively for the Japanese market. Setting up a joint venture with the Japanese buyer, 100 per cent of its supply was to Japan.


In 1997, Mike decided Prestige Foods needed to diversify its market share, so bought back the shares from the Japanese company and started to  branch out supply around the world, appointing distribution agents in Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok and Sri Lanka.


By the mid-90s Prestige Foods International was exporting food and hotel items to luxurious holiday destination, the Maldives. It was the first Australian company to do so and remains the largest Australian supplier to this day.

Aerial view of resort paradise, the Maldives.


While an international footprint was delivering results for Prestige Foods, Mike recognised there was a need for a domestic base to share the risk.


He says it was at this point they established a very strong and wonderful relationship with a company called The Stock Merchant, creating premium, gourmet stocks, sauces soups for the local market in Australia.


While stocks and sauces are the company’s core offering, Prestige has also teamed up a broad acre farmer in South Australia to process chickpeas. This has led to further collaboration, with Prestige now processing a range of grains & pulses for the retail and food service markets.




Prestige have developed a new brand – Stocksmatter, targeted to the online market. 100% natural and gluten free, these premium quality, pre-prepared stocks and ready-made meal components can be delivered straight to your door – all around Australia and through-out Southeast Asia.


Shop the range: stocksmatter.com.au

Image source: stocksmatter.com.au


People make all the difference


“We have always strived to have good relationships with our team members suppliers, partners and, of course, our bank managers,” Mike says.


“I've been fortunate to have some wonderful people around me. The people you surround yourself with make all the difference, especially during times of great change and adversity.”


He believes to get through periods of uncertainty, people should strive to do the right thing – from landlords, to suppliers, employers, employees, the government and banks.


“The decisions made now, more than ever, will have a long term effect on the future of the economy and lives, so people need to be considerate,” he says.


“The entire community is in this together, so we should be supporting each other and doing the right thing – this will enable the economy to bounce back faster and stronger. Now is definitely not the time, to take advantage of the vulnerable or of certain situations. Now is the time to do the right thing, for everyone’s sake.”


Having had to make the tough decision to stand down most of his 65 staff due to COVID-19, Mike says they will do whatever it takes to keep them all on, drawing on a mix of his own business capacity and support from government and ANZ.


“We have had to work with skeleton staff, rotating from the office to home, moving people around, finding work for the people at the factory. But everyone has stepped up, put their hands up and said, yes, we'll do whatever it takes,” Mike says. “It has been amazing to witness, just been amazing.”



Opportunity of a lifetime


Mike believes the highs and lows of business and the ability to adapt to changes along the way has helped them manage the current pandemic.


“But the thing with COVID was it was almost instantaneous,” he says.


With the Maldives alone, the company went from generating $2 million a month in sales to zero.

“The airlines stopped flying, the hotels shut down and all of the islands were closed. Never before has anything like this happened,” Mike says.


According to ANZ Research, the value of tourism-related service exports fell 27 per cent between January and March this year.


But Mike is optimistic, he believes this is the opportunity of a lifetime. “We all have to change - everybody. The days of doing work like we've been doing previously, it's over.”


Mike’s positivity is admirable and he’s confident when the time is right Prestige Foods will resume and continue to thrive.


“I have two very good people on board with me, Edward and Paul. Between them and with the help of the rest of our amazing team, we can run this business,” he says.


“I look forward to seeing where we take it.”


So, my intuition is confirmed: Mike’s character, his strength, humour, resilience and persistence has paid off.


“I am what I am. And I'm proud of what we've done. Really proud.”





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