The Ruggiero family have decided to take a leaf out of their own recipe book and share their love of a crisp salad.
South Australia's biggest growers of lettuce and broccoli have put all their hard work at Swanport Harvest up for sale.
The Ruggiero's say they are ready to farewell their 90 hectares on the River Murray, near Murray Bridge in South Australia, and also the water, equipment and valuable intellectual property rights which comprises their formidable business.
Next time you are shopping for crunchy lettuce at the supermarket, at any time of the year, and find plastic-wrapped lettuce to buy, it will likely be their famous Staycrisp brand.
When the Ruggiero family established their Swanport market garden in the 1960's through Italian immigrants Maria and Charlie, they supplied a variety of fresh produce to the local and Adelaide markets.
They also saw a niche section of the fresh salad market and over the years have made it their own.
It all began when they recognised Swanport (near Lake Alexandrina) was one of the very few places in Australia where lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower can be grown year-round.
Don and Kathy Ruggiero carried on the family tradition and grow lettuce as others have done but devised a unique method to make it last twice as long as the fresh-cut product.
Lettuce is cut firm daily and stored in modified atmosphere packing to substantially extend its shelf life.
"Each tray of lettuce is then snapped cooled within an hour of harvest and the rapid chilling process that we achieve through vacuum cooling is the other secret in producing the superior quality and long lasting product," Don Ruggiero said.
As a result of all their experimentation, and the transport links they have forged, their product now enjoys exclusive arrangements with one of the country's largest supermarket chains.
This is the lucrative business they are prepared to now sell after appointing Colliers' Jesse Manuel and Tim Altschwager to take state-of-the-art irrigated landholding to market.
Agents are not prepared to suggested a possible price for the holding which is for sale through expressions of interest with the first stage closing on July 20.
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Colliers said the family owned lettuce producer was expected to attract interest from fresh produce growers, marketers and investors alike.
Colliers' director of agribusiness transactions Jesse Manuel said: "The Ruggiero family has positioned itself as a significant player in a staple food product line but within a very niche and value-added segment of the market that it has cornered, being the highly sought-after, wrapped iceberg lettuce space."
Mr Manuel said the Swanport Harvest business was underpinned by a high-quality horticultural landholding at Langhorne Creek, with multiple resources for irrigation and the ability to grow produce over an extended period through rotations.
He said the farm already includes more than 90ha hectares but Swanport Harvest also has an option to acquire a nearby landholding of around 120ha for further expansion.
Agents said the flagship Staycrisp product was iconic in the salad world and its reliability, consistency and premium quality has earned its position as a household name.
"Swanport Harvest's transformation and value-adding to one of the most staple food products is genius and the business' ability to produce a product that outweighs its competition in so many facets whilst maintaining a competitive price has cemented the company's position in the market," Mr Manuel said.
Swanport Harvest has the ability to bag certain lines of its product in-field.
Its unique systems means it is not reliant on a significant inventory of plant, equipment or machinery shedding.
Mr Altschwager said the business was on a strong growth trajectory.
"With its recent expansion though the purchase of land, the increasing demand for its products, and the ability to diversify into additional crops, the business is very well positioned to enjoy significant growth in the coming years," Mr Altschwager said.
For more information contact Mr Manuel on 0421 550242 or Mr Altschwager on 0408 814699.
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