Hagen’s organics is a small business success story based on steadfast commitment to values and ethics.
Starting over 20 years ago as Prahran market’s first ever organic fruit and veggie stall, Royce and Sue Hagen started on their business journey by doing what came naturally to them – building strong relationships.
With a background in the food industry and a passion for selling chemical-free healthy produce from a transparent local source, the Hagen family quickly grew into a Prahran favourite, building a strong and loyal customer base of people who appreciate good food.
After customers began enquiring about purchasing organic meat, the seed was sewn for a flourishing future business. And, without any experience in running a butcher’s store Royce decided the only thing to do was to give it a go.
“My Dad didn’t have any experience in selling meat,” says Ruby Hagen, HR and Marketing Manager. “But he decided to give it a go and it just took off from there.”
One of the secrets to their success is their unwavering commitment to their values of organic, sustainable ad local. And the depth of relationships they’ve formed over the years.
“We still have customers who have shopped with us from the beginning,” says Ruby “And, one of our suppliers from the fruit and veggie days, a grower who supplied our herbs, transitioned into beef cattle when we added the meat into our offering, so we’ve evolved together.”
Such is the strength of their partnerships.
Hagen’s Organics customers have come to expect exceptional quality from the company, as well as valuing their ethics and sustainability.
“Our priority is to source as much of our produce as possible from Victoria,” says Ruby. “Though, in some cases we can’t do that, for example our chickens have been supplied from the same producer in Queensland for the last 15 years, but we only source from Australia.”
The ability to be transparent with their customers across their supply chain is something they take very seriously. In addition to their four stores and head office, Hagen’s has also been supplying customers with home delivery for around four years. Something that has really taken off in the wake of the COVID- 19 pandemic when customers have been unable to go to the stores.
But running an online store and providing home delivery brings with it some challenges.
“We’re very focussed on sustainability and keeping our carbon footprint as low as possible,” Ruby says, “so we’ve put a lot of thought into low we package and deliver all the products. We work with a specialist refrigerated delivery company and have sourced insulated packing boxes, for example.”
But their meat, which needs to maintain shelf life, was packaged in plastic trays.
“We had a lot of requests from customers to find an alternate to plastic,” Ruby informs. “We’ve tried several other options, such as compostable vacuum seal bags, but the cost of those is just prohibitive for a small business like ours and we just weren’t able to justify the increased costs that would mean for our customers.”
So, operations manager Taylor Matthews embarked on a research project to find a more sustainable alternative that was also at a viable price point. His research led him to the Caspak bamboo tray.
“When I first spoke with Taylor it was clear that Hagen’s Organics are lateral thinkers and that sustainability is high on their values,” says Mat Radcliffe, Business Development Manager, Caspak. “Their key concerns were that they wanted to significantly reduce the plastic in their packaging but retain the high barrier quality.”
During their discussions Mat was able to guide them through the options available to them, provide the sustainable benefits of the fibre trays and explain clearly how they could achieve a significant plastic reduction and help their customers dispose of the packaging either in their curb side recycling or in their compost bin at home.
“Because Mat provided as with such clear information about the trays, we’ve been able to pass all the details onto our customers and show them the easy steps they need to take. And we’ve received great feedback,” says Ruby.
As well as providing the sustainable solution Hagen’s were looking for, the Caspak fibre trays also meet their need for high barrier MAP packaging.
“The Caspak fibre trays have been designed to provide the same MAP characteristics as a PPE tray,” says Mat. “The tray has a thin layer of plastic coating to ensure the meat or other produce meets the shelf-life requirements. This film is then easily peeled off for disposal.”
The bamboo trays have only 4g of plastic, compared to traditional MAP trays that contain 20g, reducing plastic content by around 80%. And the trays are designed to work with existing equipment.
“Because we’ve been offering our home delivery service for a while, we already had the sealing machinery for the plastic trays,” says Ruby. “It was great that these trays simply slotted into that existing process. As a small business it was good to not have to go to the expense of buying new equipment.”
As a company that operates fully from a place of values, the Caspak bamboo MAP tray is also helping Hagen’s Organics stand out on the shelf. Now supplying several small independent grocery stores and IGAs, the trays allow them to deliver high quality organic produce that not only looks great in store, it also helps differentiate them from competitors, and gives them peace of mind that their product will arrive at the customer’s home in perfect condition.