From humble beginnings clearing land and farming potatoes with horse drawn plough, Jack McBeth achieved remarkable things in the potato industry as a grower, merchant, packer and processor. Enjoying success in a business that was being established during the Great Depression.
An ability to foresee future market trends, saw Jack set up the first frozen french fry plant in Victoria in the 1960s, laying the foundations for the Marvel Packers that continues to thrive today.
Joined by his son, the company continued in the Melbourne suburb of East Malvern. Sourcing, washing, peeling , processing and packing the finest quality potatoes , supplying a vast range of customers and meeting the growing demand for french fries.
The trend toward frozen chips (french fries) and the benefits for customers of using a product snap frozen at its best, continued to offer the most exciting prospects for growth and the company concentrated it’s efforts to satisfy growing demand.
In 1984 the company learned the site of the operation in East Malvern was required for the construction of Melbourne’s South Eastern Freeway project, forcing the company to evolve once again.
The company began construction of another new frozen french fry factory on 20 acres of land it had purchased in Hallam Victoria, well beyond the outskirts of metropolitan Melbourne at the time. Machinery and equipment was relocated from the East Malvern operation to the new purpose built site .
From an initial throughput of approx 20 tonne per day and 1 shift, the business grew.
Although tiny compared to the multinationals, the Marvel brand of frozen chip soon had a loyal band of customers who would never use anything else! As more and more end users switched from making their own chips, word spread of this frozen chip that looked and tasted like a home-made product, demand grew.
In time a second shift was added, but the demand still exceeded our capacity so a second freezing tunnel was added.
In the late 1990s state of the art optical sorting equipment was added where every single chip/fry is inspected by high speed cameras and ejected from the product stream should a major defect be present.
The Marvel range now had a very loyal cook and serve customer base, who would not entertain using any other chip.
In 2010 with the plant now at capacity again, the company decided to make our biggest investment yet. A multimillion dollar investment saw a major upgrade take place. Modern cutting edge computer controlled machinery replaced the equipment that had served the business over the past 24 years and in some cases even longer. Brand new steam peeling lines from Europe, custom designed computerised drying ovens, a new fryer and blanching equipment, along with computerised weighing and bagging machinery meant that not only would our capacity lift again, but the quality and style of product we could now produce was as good or better than anything else available in the market.
Whilst we dare not risk upsetting our Marvel customers by changing the specifications of the chip they love, our new equipment meant we could now offer some of the benefits of the Marvel range and add some more mainstream “A Grade” traits such as longer hold times and ability to last in a bain marie. After much research and development and customer feed back, the Farmers Best range was launched. Initially only as a 13mm straight cut. Customer demand soon saw us add a 10mm version, a 7mm shoestring and what is currently our fastest growing line, a Farmers Best 15mm Chunky chip.
With a new product range and increasing market share, the inevitable happened and we again came up against capacity constraints. Having learned from the past, the new line we’d installed had been specified with extra capacity for future growth but our two freezing tunnels became the new production bottle neck.
In 2012, during a planned month long shutdown, the latest in freezing technology came to Marvel Packers, by way of a brand new fully automated freezing tunnel, imported from the worlds leading supplier in North America. This impressive piece of plant not only gave us the increase in capacity required but allows us to run the plant 24 hrs/day without stopping for regular defrosts, unlocking further efficiencies in production.
Through continued investment in the latest technologies, what used to take us a days to produce is now processed in hours. While the quality of our products has continued to improve, importantly it has not been at the expense of the very reason our business has grown. The most important attribute a food can have and remains our primary objective to produce a product with exceptional taste and flavour.