We had a chat with Harry Emmanoilidis – Director and Head of Operations at Akropol.
As a second generation fruit and vegetable wholesaler with over 25 years in fresh produce experience, Harry is committed to protecting, promoting and growing the Australian independent fresh produce industry.
How long has Akropol been operating for? Tell us about the history of the business.
Akropol was established by my father Leo Emmanoilidis in 1977. We began with a one module stand in Sydney Markets’ C Shed. As our customer base started to expand and we took on more growers, Akropol soon became too big for its boots and had to relocate to its current three module stand in Sydney Markets’ A Shed.
Today, Akropol continues as a family-run business specialising in fresh herbs, bunch lines and all-vegetable products. We definitely pride ourselves on supplying independent retailers, as well as Sydney’s best providores and restaurants.
All our products are sourced within Australia from local growers and farms in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. Our vision is to provide our clientele with the freshest Australian grown herbs and vegetables all year round.
Why did you get involved? Talk a little bit about your passion for sourcing/providing quality fresh produce to independent retail across NSW.
I went into help my father in a time of need when I was 18 years of age. I really enjoyed it – hated the hours but nonetheless, I still loved it.
Even though I was picking and packing back then, I always found the Markets to be an interesting environment to work in. The energetic, fast-paced nature of it all was something I could see myself in for a long time. But I really think it’s the comradery we have here that really had me sold.
Our job is to provide for and educate the public about eating healthy. By feeding our children the right food and delivering the highest standard quality produce for restaurants, we help to position Australia as a world-class destination for fruit and vegetables.
What does Akropol specialise in today? What about in the past? Has the business traditionally focused on any produce lines?
Leo started out with a mango plantation in Mutarnee QLD. It had about 2000 trees & produced amazing fruit that was always in demand, which soon prompted him to start selling products like watermelon & grapes.
He then began expanding the business into vegetable product lines such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, capsicums, eggplant, zucchini, lettuce and cucumber. As he built the business, he gained the respect and support of his growers for helping build theirs.
In my 25 years I’ve only heard praise from farmers when referring to my father. I think he had a great relationship with all of his suppliers because he looked after them.
The business has changed over the 45 years and we foresee that it will continue to grow and change with our buyers needs. As our clients change, so too will our product offerings.
Why do you think shopping at Your Local Greengrocer is so important? Why is independent retail so important to your business?
Independent retailers in NSW are the strongest of all independents in Australia. Over the years we have witnessed a very slow but true decline in fresh produce retailing businesses. Whether they have not been able to compete with the major supermarkets financially or whether they chose not to.
Convenience & buying power are the main things that the major supermarkets have over independent greengrocers. However, the general public have shifted back to buying local, Australian-grown produce & have turned back to supporting the little guy.
This is where the Your Local Greengrocer Program for me plays a role in cementing that belief with consumers with educating the public on produce from farmer to wholesalers to Your Local Greengrocer.
Not all wholesalers supply the majors so for the majority that don’t, we need to keep supporting our independent greengrocer network and ensure it is as strong as possible to compete with the chains. Not only for the survival of the independents and the central market system but for Australian farmers too.