Australian-owned Steric headed up by second-generation Richard Brownie

Business image of Richard Brownie

Steric’s Managing Director Richard Brownie is the son of founder William (Bill) Brownie, who is focused on continuing the foundation work of his father who is now retired but an active member of the Steric Board.

The Steric business was founded in 1964 by Graham Steel and Brian Rich, who named the company by combining the first three letters of each of their surnames. Almost immediately Bill Brownie took over Steel’s share of the company. Over the next decade, Brownie and Rich built the business into a leading name in commercial food manufacturing in Australia, and upon Rich’s retirement in 1974, Brownie took full ownership of Steric.

Fast forward to 1995, and Richard, the third of five Brownie boys joined his father’s thriving business. Richard was straight out of university and keen to learn. In his early years, Richard experienced most aspects of the business – factory floor, set up IT systems, production planning & management, and supply chain.

Just five years later when his dad Bill retired, he took on the challenging role of Managing Director. “It’s great to work in a business where you see your product going out the door. It’s a thrill when I see our products on supermarket shelves or being used in pubs and clubs. My role is fun but I also feel a sense of responsibility to grow the business so I can potentially hand it on to the third generation when it’s time for me to retire,” said Richard.

Long-term relationships

Richard describes his role as challenging and rewarding.

“We have now over 100 staff and many are long-term employees. That’s great but we still need to bring on and train recruits to replace people as they retire. The current labour market is very challenging so it’s a constant focus for us.

“It’s also great to have other family members on board. My brother Cameron is a senior manager in the business with the role of Executive Director of Buying and Planning, and he’s been in the business for about 20 years. Dad is also a member of the Board and is still very involved and loves to see the business continue to grow and prosper. Another brother is also on the Board so it’s a real family affair. I’m so proud to say we are a 100 per cent Australian family-owned business. Long-term supplier relationships are also important to Steric. “Where possible, we source products locally and buy overseas when it’s not. We have some supplier relationships that go back more than 30 years. We need to have transparent and trusting relationships with our suppliers because we have to be able to guarantee that any claims we make about our products are accurate. We need to be able to validate them and control important things like allergen contamination,” added Richard.

The role of private label

One of Bill Brownie’s major contributions to the growth of Steric is the start of home brands in the 1980s and 90s with the Franklins No Frills and generic Black & Gold brands.

“The original home brands have now evolved into a very different sector of the market now known as private label. The quality of private label products has improved to meet customer demands, and in many cases are comparable quality as the market leaders.

“Our private label supermarket customers are looking to increase their business. They want to control equity in their own private label brands, rather than just be ‘box movers’ for other brands. “Back in the 1980s and 90s private label accounted for about 80 to 90 per cent of our business, whereas today the share is much lower. Our business is more diverse these days and have built up other channels, such as foodservice and our commercial channel,” commented Richard.

The advantages of local manufacture

Steric manufactures all of its products at its Fairfield East plant.

“We’ve invested in our plant over many years and continue to improve processes and products. The secret of our success lies in our ability to control the whole process from product development to the end product.

“We have a local advantage. As a medium-sized business, we remain agile and can respond quickly to market needs. It’s enabled us to survive and prosper. The COVID pandemic has created a supply chain mess. That’s where our local manufacturing operation gives us a huge advantage,” said Richard.

“Our experience confirms that Australia is experiencing a resurgence in manufacturing. The world has become unstable, in part due to the pandemic, and we’re proud to be part of securing Australia’s food supply.

“We are very good at making quality products and constantly improving. Labour is more expensive but great manufacturers can still grow by continually improving, using quality ingredients, and applying high quality standards. “Steric has an exciting future ahead” added Richard.

Potential growth in foodservice

Steric has a new team heading up the foodservice division which has great growth potential.

“We are not the largest player in the foodservice sector but have huge growth potential in this burgeoning market. Our Sunshine brand continues to impress the market for its value and our premium brand, Plate & Platter is kicking goals which now includes a premium Tomato Ketchup.

“Australia’s foodservice sector continues to grow with more and more Australians eating out in restaurants and cafes. The pandemic put a pause on this sector, but it will continue to thrive as we return to normal.

“At Steric we have an in-house product development team, and they work hard to keep ahead of market trends. They look at flavour trends, as well as shifts in the market towards veganism, plant-based foods, sustainability, and more,” concluded Richard.

The future is bright for Steric with plenty of room for growth at the Western Sydney location, under the guidance of Richard Brownie and his team.

To learn more about Steric visit www.steric.com.au or call 1800 008 155.