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Celebrating our SECOND 21st
For most of us, turning 21 is a huge milestone and one to be celebrated. And for a business, it is a massive achievement. Well, this month we’re delighted to announce that we’re celebrating our SECOND 21st birthday as we turn a respectable 42 this year!
As one of the oldest local businesses still operated by the founding members, Robberg has come a long way and overcome many obstacles. We’re only growing bigger and getting stronger, so if you’re a loyal customer, rest assured we’ll still be here to serve you for many years to come.
Looking back, Robberg Seafoods began in 1979 after Malcolm Craig bought the then Robberg Fisheries from Louis Ollermans. A year later, Peter Dodds (father of the current General Manager Blaine Dodds) came on board as a new partner in the business.
They had outgrown their Noël Centre premises by 1982 and moved to the Plett’s Industrial Area, sharing a building with three other small businesses… an electrical repairs company, a boat builder and a furniture manufacturer.
Blaine Dodds (skipper of one of Robberg’s larger fishing boats) bought his dad, Peter, out of the business in 1983 after he left to start The Islander restaurant on the N2 near Harkerville.
Then, in 1985, the chokka boom hit Plett. Malcolm and Blaine ran six ski-boats and sourced even more from independent boats, packing and freezing it for consumption by the Italian restaurant trade.
An important strength in this industry is the ability to adapt quickly and when the chokka market crashed in 1989, the partners quickly swapped their jigs for handlines and started catching hake off their ski-boats.
By the mid-nineties, Robberg and partners, with about five of their own boats, and buying from roughly 17 other independents in Plett, were firmly in control of the local market. Boats all along the Garden Route were selling their catch to Robberg with around 5,000 tons of fish per year being exported to Spain!
In 2008, the Robberg partners had to quickly adapt again as the world financial crash took hold. It was no longer viable to catch for export, so the business changed direction and headed into distribution and retail. The focus was now on stocking and distributing over 100 tons a month of fresh and frozen fish for the local market and the Robberg Fine Foods Store. They also added meat and poultry, completing the model that is still in force today.
The Robberg group is first and foremost a family-run entity and is acutely aware of its importance in the community of Plett, providing employment to around 90 Plett locals which in turn sustains around 500 family members each month.
From experience, Malcolm and Blaine know that the industry is fickle, and at any moment a situation can arise that upsets the proverbial applecart. Just take the covid pandemic as an example: two years ago, the coronavirus and its impact on not just Robberg, but the global retail and wholesale market, would have been unimaginable.
Quick thinking and the ability to adapt have ensured that Robberg not only survived the pandemic but also thrived under the circumstances. Changes were made to ensure that customers continued to buy from us despite the challenges in place. We offered free delivery to those who were unable to leave their homes. And as far as health protocols go, we went beyond the call by providing our customers with new, bacteria-resistant trolleys, to minimize their risk when shopping.
We have also adapted by using technology to market directly to our customers, reaching them where they are, making it easier for them to make informed decisions about what their next purchase might be.
“We’re engaging with our customers daily using social media and technology, allowing them to know before they leave home what they can expect to find on special at the store,” says Albert, Manager at the Robberg Grocery Store.
As a group, we’ve wholeheartedly enjoyed the past 42 years serving Plett locals, the Garden Route and beyond. The next generation in sons Wayne and Peter-Blaine have their hands firmly on the tiller, and are helping to steer the business in the direction of continued success.
Copyright © 2020
Robberg Fine Foods