It was the moment that saw food wholesaler Anthony Capobianco and his 14-strong team from Lemdell simultaneously punch the air, and shout for joy.
Sitting alongside them, it was hard not to feel the thrill of their win as they took to the podium to pick up their 2023 Fresh Awards prize for the best wholesaler in NSW and the ACT.
“I love The Fresh Awards as it brings all the industry together as one,” said Anthony. “I have been a wholesaler at Sydney Markets for the past 25 years, we specialise in being able to supply our customers with premium fresh produce all year round as we source produce both locally and import from overseas when needed.”
Anthony summed up what everyone felt in the crowded room at this year’s night of nights for the food industry – the Fresh Awards which was recently held at Sydney’s International Convention Centre, Darling Harbour.
As one of the judges of the Fresh Awards ceremony since its inception, I am proud to be part of this inspiring event – and it is always a privilege to see the finest greengrocers, florists, providores, wholesalers, and content creators (the category I judge) being honoured among their peers. As emcee Chris Bath said: “I emcee a lot of events but the annual Fresh Awards is always my favourite.”
Launched in 2015, the Fresh Awards has grown massively in both size and impressiveness. This year, the team at Sydney Markets and Paddy’s Markets tipped their hat to Australia and guests were greeted with dinky-di country music, bouncing kangaroos that talked, a budgie smuggler-clad Life Saver and a Welcome To Country which included an electrifying performance by an indigenous dance troupe.
Having interviewed many of the wholesalers and flower growers over the years at Sydney Markets, it’s fun to witness familiar faces in black tie having a break from their relentless hard work they put in at the Markets, not to mention those early morning rises. What’s also clear is the Market community put the same passion they have at work into the dance floor which is never empty when the band gets going.
Anthony Capobianco was one of 85 finalists being awarded along with the community involved in fresh produce and flower retailing, growing and blogging. These are the people who are an integral part of the Markets and the industry.
This year saw the new Paddy’s People Choice Awards categories – and a total of 21 winners were announced. Combining Sydney Markets and Paddy’s Markets injected even more fun and vitality to the evening because they both have their fair share of characters.
“The Market and floral industries continue to go from strength to strength,” said Brad Latham, Sydney Markets CEO. “That’s a testament to the tireless small businesses owners of our industry and their staff. Their constant commitment to upholding the highest standards is what the Fresh Awards recognises.
“This year saw the introduction of the Paddy’s People Choice Awards, voted on by Paddy’s Markets customers at Flemington and Haymarket to acknowledge the businesses loved by the community.”
Sydney Markets is home to the Sydney Produce Market, Sydney Flower Market and Sydney Growers Market.
Make no mistake, this is a sizable community. Supplied by over 20,000 local and interstate growers, more than 700 businesses sell fresh fruit, vegetables and cut flowers to florists, fruit retailers and consumers at the Markets.
Adopting a circular model, nothing goes to waste; leftover produce is given back to the farmers who supply the markets to be converted into fertiliser. In fact, on the night of the awards, any flower and veggie display that weren’t taken home by guests were given to Oz Harvest.
Hard produce grocer Yep Lum and Co won the inaugural Paddy’s People’s Choice Award Flemington.
The family business has a long history; it was established in 1940 by Henry Lum Yip, who bought his uncle out of the business called Lee Sang & Co at that time. When Henry took it over, he wanted to change the name to ‘Yip Lum & Co’, however there were several Yip Lums in the household, and he needed to differentiate his mail from that of his relatives. And so Yep Lum & Co was born.
Henry went on to establish seven produce stores, with a keen focus on being able to sponsor relatives to come to Australia and give them a head start in business when they arrived.
Today the business is co-owned by two of Henry’s sons, Neuman and Roger Yip, and run with the help of the expansive Yip family, including Neuman’s wife Eileen.
“Our success is through Henry’s hard work and dedication, and we are very grateful for him coming to Sydney,” Eileen said. “It’s an honour to win this award, as it represents love, respect, and trust. If you don’t have that from your customers, you don’t have a very good business.
“We want to say a big thank you to the Fresh Awards for recognising the Paddy stall holders this year, and especially to all the customers who voted for us. We’ve always done our very best to bring in good fresh products for our customers.”
Eileen said she believed Yip Lum & Co’s success was partially due to its excellent customer service. She said she’s always looking to provide people with information about how to cook with their produce, which sometimes differs markedly from what is available in a large retail grocer. Like, for example, their many varieties of gourmet potatoes. Here’s a tip from Eileen: If you’re making a potato salad with a variety of potatoes that includes the purple ones, you might want to use a butter and sage dressing instead of mayo, to allow the colours of the salad to shine.
Customer service also proved a winning factor for Bathurst florist Vanessa Pringle, who won Florist of the Year.
Vanessa started her business, Floral Designs, in 2011, and this the second time she’s collected a Fresh Award, having won the award for Service Excellence in 2021.
“We take much pride in treating people who are spending $10 or $200 the same way,” she said. “We replenish our stock three times a week and we turn over all that stock, everything goes out.”
Vanessa said that retail trade was the business’s key customer segment, with her Monday Posy Club Subscription – offering $4, $8 or $12 jars – and her Friday $25 Posy Express, being wildly successful with customers.
“We’re just really proud to bring it home to the Central West,” she said. “Every second person who enters the store is congratulating us and I think it’s more about just us, it’s about our community getting recognition.
“We’re also a good team here and I involve my staff in running the business as much as possible. I believe that if you invite your staff to be part of things, the business grows better.”
Reflecting on his award, Anthony Capobianco from Lemdell, said: “It is such an honour to be recognised by customers and peers for the service we provide to our industry. The selfless dedication from the team to always strive for excellence has enabled us to earn a high commendation for ethics and service. A very proud moment!”
Meet the Winners of The 2023 Fresh Awards
2023 Greengrocer Awards winners
Greengrocer of the Year Award
The Whole Fruit and Grocery Store – Sylvania
Retail Presentation Award
LoSurdo’s Fresh Food Grocer – North Sydney
Knowledge in Action Award
Bulli Greengrocer – Bulli
Service Excellence Award
Minchinbury Fruit Market – Minchinbury
Small Business Award
QE Foodstores – Randwick
Medium Business Award
Sutherland Best Fresh – Sutherland
Large Business Award
The Grocery Store – Miranda
2023 Florist Awards winners
Florist of the Year
Vanessa Pringle Floral Designs – Bathurst
Bella Floral Boutique – Morisset
Warilla Florist – Warilla
Merchandise and Branding
Brilliant Blooms – Fairy Meadow
Non-retail/Studio Florist Award
Carly Rose Weddings & Events
2023 Grower/Providore and Wholesaler Awards winners
Produce Grower of the Year
Parilla Fresh – Milperra
Flower Grower of the Year
Eagles Green Supplies – Ourimbah
Wholesaler of the Year Finalists
Lemdell Pty Ltd – Flemington
Providore of the Year Finalists
Go Troppo Fruit Market – Canberra
Fresh Content Award Finalists
Cookingwithmanel – Manel Ahmad
Paddy’s Choice Fresh Finalists – Flemington
Yep Lum & Co
Paddy’s Choice Retail Finalists – Flemington
Paddy’s Choice Fresh Finalists – Haymarket
Tender & Fresh Meat Pty Ltd
Paddy’s Choice Retail Finalists – Haymarket
For further information about the 2023 Fresh Awards, visit freshawards.com.au