5 May 2023

From humble orange orchard to online produce empire, Alpha Fresh is a multigenerational story of hard work and family

| Dione David
Frank and Giuseppe Iannelli in front of an Alpha Fresh delivery truck

Today Frank and Giuseppe Iannelli are the third generation of co-owners at online produce empire Alpha Fresh, but the business comes from humbler beginnings. Photo: Alpha Fresh.

In 1952, Frank Iannelli started an orange farm in the small Riverina country town of Leeton.

Each week he’d pack his truck to the brim with freshly picked fruit and transport it to Canberra and Queanbeyan for sale at the local fresh food markets, where everyone knew him and his business, Iannelli Produce.

His work ethic and charisma were legendary in these parts and formed part of what would become a highly respected multi-generational legacy in fresh produce – Alpha Fresh.

The brand is synonymous with three things – hard work, family and the freshest produce Australia has to offer.

“We heard stories about when nonno [grandfather] was a kid and he’d go door to door selling fruit, the old school way,” his granddaughter Rosalie Iannelli says.

“Sometimes we would make the long trip to Leeton in the back of a B-double. We’d always leave really late and mum would pile us kids onto the mattress in the truck’s sleeping cabin. We’d sleep on the way up and by the time we got there, it was early dawn and nonno would come waddling out to start his day on the farm.

“As he got older it got harder for him, but he refused a walking stick for so long. He was resilient and hated any kind of fuss being made about him.

“Nonno’s favourite saying was ‘the best way to double your money is fold it half and put it back in your pocket’. He was the hardest working man we’ve known and that’s all he really knew.”

This famed work ethic would be passed down through the generations.

READ ALSO The Vood foodie revolution has arrived – right at your door!

Sometime later the business branched out when Frank’s youngest son John moved to Canberra to open a fresh food market of his own on Leeton Street in Fyshwick.

Forging relationships with growers along the east coast – ties that remain today – one shop grew to three and the business expanded into wholesale.

For John’s sons, Frank (junior) and Giuseppe, the business was ever-present in their childhood.

Even before he was eight years old, Frank junior could be seen at his dad’s fruit shops most weekends, proudly spruiking fruit and vegetables in his custom-made fruiterer’s apron.

“People, especially mums, loved it,” Rosalie says.

“Not much has changed.”

Proud in his custom apron, Frank started off spruiking fruit in his dad’s fruit shops from a young age. Photo: Alpha Fresh.

Work ruled the day, but while John “didn’t put up with much nonsense”, his kids found plenty of occasions for mischief at the family farm, warehouses and fruit shops.

“We definitely got into our fair share of trouble,” Frank laughs.

“We learnt how to drive the forklifts from a young age and would run amuck around the warehouse on weekends. There were never any serious accidents but every now and then the shed suffered a prang.”

The brothers learned to drive while doing deliveries in the smaller trucks and vans, clocking up their learner hours alongside the delivery drivers as they made their way across Canberra delivering to wholesale customers.

Colourful fruit from Alpha Fresh

Hard work, family and the freshest local produce remain at the heart of the Alpha Fresh brand today. Photo: Lean Timms.

At age 19, it was time for Giuseppe to get his heavy vehicle truck licence.

“The day after I got it, I was sent to the Sydney markets in one of the B-doubles,” Giuseppe recalls.

“I had no idea where I was going. Before I left, dad handed me a copy of the Yellow Pages and said, ‘you’ll figure it out’.

“I ended up driving through some really small Sydney streets in this enormous truck, but I made it in the end.”

After purchasing another local company known as Alpha Carton Meats, the business expanded again into butchery and soon adopted a new name – Alpha Fresh Foods.

READ ALSO First Looks: Happy Ending cafe is another reason to get excited in Fyshwick!

Shortly after the business passed to the hands of the third generation of Ianellis, COVID hit, and Frank and Giuseppe were put to the test.

Frank worked to set up an online store selling all the Alpha Fresh produce plus baked goods and groceries for home delivery, initially on a temporary basis.

This allowed the brothers to keep their staff working, fill in the gaps for major supermarkets that were struggling to keep up with orders and get produce to their locals.

It cemented loyalty among their existing customers, and allowed a whole new customer base to fall in love with the Alpha Fresh offering.

This digital fresh produce market is now permanent and what Alpha Fresh is best known for today, delivering to customers from the Snowies all the way to the South Coast, Goulburn, Yass and everywhere in between.

“Even if you haven’t yet ordered directly from us online, chances are you’ve tasted our produce,” Frank says.

“It could be at your local cafe around the corner from your house, your favourite pub or bistro or more of an upmarket restaurant offering in the city. We’re everywhere!”

For more information or to order online, visit Alpha Fresh.

Original Article published by Dione David on Riotact.


Weekly Wrap

Canberra is renowned for its restaurants, bars, arts and culture. If you want to know what's going on in and around the nation's capital, sign up for our weekly newsletter and have all the best of the Canberra community delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.