Like many migrant stories, our beginnings are humble ones. In 1967, Sam Cuteri left his home in Calabria, south of Italy, in search of a better life. As a 19 year old, with all his worldly possessions packed into his suitcase, he travelled to Australia by ship, docking in Port Melbourne, Victoria. His first priority was to find work, but he had very little experience. He found work at a small chicken processor named ‘Peter Pan Poultry’ located in South Morang, north of Melbourne.
In 1969, Sam returned to Italy to marry his fiancée, Maria. Later that year they returned to Melbourne together. After a few years working at Peter Pan Poultry, Sam & Maria decided to start processing their own birds, thereby utilizing the skills that Sam had learnt. In 1976 they rented a small shed in South Morang and began by processing 300 birds per week by hand.
The word spread quickly and the client base grew. A new factory was built in Thomastown to cope with the growing demand and the business was now officially named “La Ionica”, after the coastline of their native home back in Italy.
Business continued to grow and after outgrowing the premises in Norwich Avenue, it became apparent that a new, more modern plant should be built. After many research trips to Europe it was decided that La Ionica would bring the European method of ‘air chilling’ to Australia.
In the late 1980’s, work began on what was then the most modern and up to date poultry processing plant in Australia. Commissioned in 1990, La Ionica’s innovative plant included Australia’s only refrigerated air chiller, replacing the traditional spin washing, spin chilling and the use of Sodium Hypochlorite (chlorine). As well as being Australia’s most revolutionary processing plant, the Thomastown plant was also the second of its kind in the world. Today it remains the cornerstone of production of our La Ionica and Bannockburn Free Range brands.
In 1992, like most companies, La Ionica suffered the effects of high interest rates and the pressures of difficult economic times. This prompted a restructuring of the business and the establishment of a Board of Directors. This was a major turning point in the company’s history. The next generation of the family joined the business in a full time capacity, each holding a seat on the new board.
In 1998, a decision was made to commence growing live birds. This would remove the reliance on a competitor for live bird supply. La Ionica Farming Operations was established. Today it is totally self sufficient with a full complement of contract growers.
In 2005, La Ionica acquired Crystal Poultry. This acquisition enabled the Thomastown plant to increase production to two shifts.
In November 2006, Montefiore Cheese was acquired and its production facility moved to the newly renovated premises in Norwich Avenue Thomastown.
In the light of further expansion plans, the board took a decision in 2008 to more corporatize the business and appointed a C.E.O.
Early in 2009 the company changed its name from Turi Enterprises to Turi Foods to reflect the changing nature of the business, which now held two diverse food brands in La Ionica and Montefiore Cheese.
In 2009, the company purchased the Victorian assets of Bartter/Steggles at Geelong. A third and new brand, Golden Farms was created under the Turi Foods banner. This acquisition satisfied the long term goals for Turi Foods to become a fully integrated Poultry Processor.
In 2010, Turi Foods launched Bannockburn Free Range Chicken, providing even further choice to the consumer.
In 2013 an opportunity presented itself which was compatible with the overall goal to move towards self sufficiency. Turi Foods acquired a range of Victorian farming assets from the Baiada Group. the assets include breeder complexes at Nagambie and Benalla as well as a hatchery at Fiveways Cranbourne.