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Standing out in the marketplace

“I have two young daughters and I tell them it was like the Agrabah Marketplace from Aladdin.” - Sanjay Mirchandani.

Sanjay Mirchandani pictures the early days of his family’s Brunswick dried fruit and nut business as though it were a bazaar from an Arabian Knights fairy tale.


Located in an area where many migrant families took a first step opening food businesses, Royal Nut Co – now with its signature gold buildings – has been popular since opening in 1987.


If you wanted to get cashew nuts for an Indian sweet Kheer dessert, almonds for a Middle Eastern basbousa cake or peanuts for an Indonesian satay – it was the place to go.


“I have two young daughters and I tell them it was like the Agrabah marketplace from Aladdin,” Sanjay laughs now. “The market grew as Melbourne’s population grew. Now it is very different.”


Sanjay Mirchandani


The modern Royal Nut Co business Sanjay now operates as the Managing Director is more sophisticated than its humble beginnings.


It is a growing Australian success story built over decades of work by the Mirchandani family, particularly Sanjay’s father Prakash who purchased the business from its founders in the early 2000’s.


Royal Nut Co now employs almost 100 people. It sources, processes and packages over a thousand different varieties of premium products - from nuts, spreads, dried fruit, legumes and grains, health foods, confectionery, snack foods and spices.


Expansion plans


It supplies major supermarkets Coles and Woolworths nationally and has its own network of stores in addition to supplying other manufacturers, independent retailers, restaurants, cafes, ice cream stores and chocolatiers.


And now with the help of ANZ Commercial banker Thomas Wright, Royal Nut Co is moving from its Brunswick head office and Rowville factory to a new home – a purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility in the manufacturing hub of Scoresby.


The move brings scale. While Brunswick and Rowville each have about 2000 square metres each in floor space, the Scoresby facility has almost 9000 square metres.


This enables a significant increase in storage and production capacity as well as the introduction of new manufacturing capabilities. Royal Nut Co will keep the popular “gold” Brunswick property as a key retail and wholesale outlet.


The new Scoresby headquarters – where construction started in 2023 – consolidates warehousing and production facilities to one site. It will also enable Royal Nut Co to pursue bigger manufacturing and distribution deals for new products and formats.


“You can’t run this place like a small business. I’m told that only five per cent of small to medium businesses have a long-term business plan,” Sanjay says. “You start small, but what happens if the business grows beyond what you ever imagined one day?”



Coming home


How to capture growth and opportunities has long been a focus for Sanjay. He was working as an engineer for BHP in South America when the opportunity to return home and work for the family business came in 2019.


Historically the administration teams would take orders from the office and shout them through the window into the warehouse.


“But in this new facility the office is 50 metres away. You cannot yell orders anymore. We are now implementing a suite of integrated software to handle the large volume of orders we get daily,” Sanjay says.


The workforce has grown 50 per cent since Sanjay took over and a major focus has been gearing up for growth, despite inflation and a cost-of-living crisis making it harder to find sales.


Rather than engaging in a price war with competitors, he focused on the company’s value proposition and its own efficiency and innovation as a point of differentiation.


“Part of this investment is about making the business leaner,” he says. “The additional capacity and capability means we can bring on new business. For example, we are working with prominent food brands to develop new products and take them to market.”


“The growth we have achieved in the past 37 years we would like to emulate but in the next five to ten years.”


A big part of the new Scoresby facility is the way occupational health and safety has been incorporated into the site. With so many customers and clients Sanjay says the business needs stringent food safety standards to ensure it is certified organic, Kosher and Halal.


“We didn’t just pick up our old equipment and place it in this facility, we upgraded our equipment with some very innovative solutions to improve product quality and throughput.”


The new facility includes a new product development room and allows the wholesale arm – which currently has five trucks delivering to hundreds of local food businesses – to operate more efficiently.


Meanwhile, there are also plans to grow the retail footprint from the current three stores to capture more value.


“When I started the first thing I saw was that the stores make a good profit. If we supply our own store, we make a good margin,” Sanjay says.


A place people want to work


Sanjay says workforce culture has been crucial to Royal Nut Co’s success. His BHP experience showed him the benefits of diversity and he has focused on attracting and retaining more woman and ethnically diverse staff. The new headquarters played a part in this.


“When we were fitting out the new headquarters, we surveyed our teams about what they wanted. The main thing they asked for a was a quiet room where they could chill out and just read a book. So we have built that, among other things,” Sanjay says.


“Our longest serving team members have been with us for more than 20 years and some relocated to be closer to our new site. We want to encourage and reward that kind of loyalty by always giving our people the opportunity to grow.”


“Whilst most businesses are hunkering down and preserving cash, we are doubling down and if we can ride through this tricky economic time – we will come out in a fantastic position.”


By focusing on the loyalty of staff, customers and business partners, Sanjay believes Royal Nut Co can achieve the next stage of growth – no matter the economic climate.


Jeff Whalley is a journalist with bluenotes

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