Only three years after moving into a new, purpose-built facility in St Peters, Sydney, former rugby league player Sean Garlick is moving his company, Garlo’s Pies, to a new plant in the south-west Sydney suburb of Kingsgrove.

The new plant will span 4500 square metres, compared to the 1300 square metres of the St Peters site – and Garlo’s will be primed to implement a lot more automation.

The company is investing in more machinery, including a spiral freezer from Amsterdam which can freeze all its product – close to 8000 pies – in only 80 minutes.

“We’re also buying bigger kettles to cook the meat in, as well as a new pastry laminating line which will standardise the pastry for a better consistency,” Garlick said.

“Overall the new machinery will increase capacity enormously and won’t require as much skill from workers. The product will come straight onto the conveyors and the flow wrappers automatically.

“Our efficiency and contingency will be improved, and we’ll have more storage space.”

Garlick had only been in the St Peters facility for a couple of years, and although the move was inevitable due to the company’s fast expansion, the timing was taken out of his hands following a takeover by the WestConnex transport project – a new road that will link Sydney’s west and south-west with the CBD, Sydney Airport and Port Botany.

“They planned the road to run right through where our building was, so we didn’t have a choice,” Garlick told Food & Drink Business.

“We were compulsorily acquired by the government 18 months ago, only 18 months in to us moving there.”

Garlick said he and his team negotiated with the government for close to nine months before putting it to rest and accepting they had to leave, and found the new Kingsgrove location.

“It was a little early to move out – the timing wasn’t quite right – but we also saw it as an opportunity to find somewhere new,” he said.

“At the end of the day, it was a move we eventually would have made anyway.”

A 15-year journey

Sean Garlick started the business back in 2001 with his brother Nathan, a trained pastry cook, and his father Terry, a former wharfie.

They began in a small bakery in Maroubra, Sydney, after Sean finished up his NRL career, and soon after, opened a further 10 retail outlets.

Back then, Garlo’s pies, sausage rolls and pasties were mainly sold through its own outlets as well as hotels, cafes, schools, mobile lunch trucks, sports grounds and catering companies.

Then Coles approached the company about stocking its range, followed by Woolworths in 2013, and in 2014, the company opened in the US, baking pies fresh everyday at a Garlo’s store in Los Angeles.

“Exports to the US are really ramping up,” Garlick said. “It’s a long process as you have to make sure your products comply with FDA standards. But we got there in the end.”

Nathan also spent two years on location, making sure they had all the right equipment and that staff were trained to bake the pastry exactly to the Garlo’s method.

“We’ve made a great effort to ensure that the pies you buy from our American locations will taste identical to the ones you buy in Australia, or anywhere else,” Garlick said.

The company is planning to open a second store on Hollywood Boulevard later this year, and plans are underway to stock food trucks in California and export to new markets in South East Asia.

Are pies on-trend?

Garlick said pies were such an established market in Australia, so there was a need to vary the flavours and ingredients and provide alternatives such as cocktail pies.

“Once you leave our shores, however, you realise no one is doing pies,” he said.

“In the US, for example, they’re happy with the authentic meat pie as they feel like they’re eating a piece of Australia.

“That fact is almost more exciting than the pie itself, and it’s considered a gourmet item.”

Apart from LA, Garlo’s has also made inroads into Asia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait in the last two years.

The pies are served on airlines such as Qantas, Emirates, Etihad, and Malaysian, and Garlo's now exports the pies directly to New Zealand following a decision to serve the pies on Emirates flights between Auckland and Dubai.

“The expansion into inflight meals increases our reach, and offers more people the opportunity to try the unique taste of an Australian pie,” Garlick said.

Just this month, Garlo’s Pies signed an agreement to supply 20 McDonald’s restaurants across the ACT with its Lean Beef Pie and Curry Beef Pie. They will be sold through the chain until January as part of a six-month trial.

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