When businesses venture beyond their original target market, success stories are usually the exception, not the norm. However, one such success story is that of Azzopardi Group, an enterprise which has seen unprecedented growth despite its constant evolution over the years.
Azzopardi Group was founded back in 1980 by Charles and Tony Azzopardi, mainly as a fish distributor in Malta.
As the years progressed, Azzopardi Group grew swiftly. Over time the fledgling company began to diversify its business and entered new markets, which some deemed as almost impossible to break as a new competitor. This led to the group entirely revamping its core business.
The group started out in the fish selling industry, through their first company, Azzopardi Fisheries. With Charles and Tony Azzopardi hailing from a fishing family, they began their working lives selling the fresh fish which their father used to catch on his own fishing boat. Throughout the years, the company achieved great success and garnered an excellent reputation, initially through their first fish shop, going on to employ a few vans to expand their business to other localities and catering businesses. 1985 was a landmark year for the group. The Azzopardis were the first to construct a cold fish store in Malta, located in St Paul’s Bay; not only a massive step for the business, being the first-ever company to import frozen fish to Malta but also for the sector itself.
Over time Azzopardi Fisheries continued to expand and sometime later also established a subsidiary fishing company called Hannibal Fishing Limited, ensuring that Azzopardi Fisheries was the company with the freshest seafood available on the island. To this day, Azzopardi Fisheries is one of Malta’s largest seafood businesses and one of the most reputable leaders in the industry.
Azzopardi Group continued their venture in the fish market, through their partnership with Japanese and South Korean businesses, to form AJD Tuna, a Maltese bluefin tuna company. Eventually, in 2007, Azzopardi Group purchased the whole company from its partners, now becoming its sole shareholder. The company was the first to introduce the concept of Blue Fin Tuna farming in the Maltese islands; a massive success, with the industry now representing around 1% of Malta’s whole GDP. The company is now one of the top three Mediterranean producers of Blue Fin Tuna, having the ability to produce over 3,500 M/Tons of fish every year, most of which is exported to Japan.
The group decided to venture in the fresh and frozen food market, by acquiring Miracle Foods Ltd, which was founded in 1995. The food chain now operates 19 different stores around the Maltese islands. The company’s main objective is to expand its business in Malta by opening more stores, whilst also opening stores in other countries in the next five years. Miracle Foods Ltd buys all of its products directly from foreign producers, allowing the company to sell its products at very low prices, whilst also maintaining better control over the quality of products that it sells. The company sells a range of products, from ice-creams to meat to even ready-made meals, whilst also having both branded and own-label products in its stock.
In 2011, the group acquired Valhmor, a business which was launched back in 1974. This business’s aim is that of importing fresh and frozen foodstuffs, ranging from dairy, desserts, poultry, and even wines. The products are then sold to the food service industry by making use of 25 refrigerated trucks, which distribute the products. Ever since acquiring the business, Azzopardi Group has utilised group synergies in order to allow the business to expand and grow even further over recent years.
Azzopardi Group founded Food Pro Malta in 2012, a company which operates a fully approved EU Packing Plant that has an annual output of over 800 tonnes, processing a wide range of products, such as fresh and frozen meats and fresh and frozen fish. The company packs the products in a wide variety of packing sizes, as well as offering both natural and ready-marinated products. Utilising state of the art machinery to pack products, the company has plenty of customers, including several supermarkets and catering establishments.
During late 2016, Malta Retailing Ltd, a member of the Azzopardi Group, was granted an exclusive license by the giant food retail chain SPAR, enabling it to produce under its brand name SPAR in Malta. The first SPAR store was opened in June of 2018 in Marsaxlokk; a newly refurbished 340m2 store, accommodating a bakery, a delicatessen, fresh produce, freshly packed fish and meats, as well as a wide variety of SPAR’s own branded products. SPAR Malta went ahead and opened two new stores, later on, a 300m2 store in Tigne Street Sliema, whilst the other a 2,000m2 INTERSPAR supermarket in Daniel’s Shopping Mall in Ħamrun. The brand aims to become one of the leading retail brands in Malta, focusing on the utilisation of SPAR Own Brand products, in order to develop them even further according to the market’s needs.
Azzopardi Group decided to diverge to a completely different market through their subsidiary company, GAP Developments plc, which has led to the development of the Fort Cambridge apartment complex on Sliema’s Tigne peninsula. Azzopardi Group owns 75% of this project. The complex benefits from a special area status, offering numerous tax incentives and other benefits to foreign buyers. Designed by one of Malta’s leading architectural firms, Fort Cambridge offers the conveniences of modern life, through the maximisation of use of space, whilst in the meantime not restricting comfort. The project is completely residential, boasts numerous parking spaces and garages, whilst also enjoying a tremendous sea view through its properties’ wide balconies and windows. Fort Cambridge has 350 developed apartments, it is Malta’s largest residential project and a winner of various international awards.
The Group continued its venture in the development industry, by garnering 40% of the Balluta Terrace project. This project has a magnificent view of the Balluta seafront, with its wonderful promenade which boasts some of the best restaurants and cafeterias on the island. Azzopardi Group focused on ensuring that the project is as eco-friendly as possible, with the least emissions. Today the project has been completed and all of the 99 apartments in the complex have been sold.
The group maintained its great relationship with East Asia, through its partnership with a South Korean company in 2008 to form Dawoom Lao Co. Ltd, a development company that operated in Laos. The company was a great success, constructing and developing sites such as golf courses and clubhouses. The property was eventually sold to a Chinese Group of Hotels in 2013.
When speaking to Maltawinds, one of the founding Azzopardi brothers, Charles Azzopardi, said that the group’s original ethos and foundations are integral to the group to this day, saying “We will never forget where we started from, fully focusing on keeping our business promises and commitments.”
Mr Azzopardi also added that the success of the group was mainly attributable to the group’s guiding principle of remaining as humble as possible, whilst also focusing on being as efficient in management as possible.
With numerous businesses forming part of the group today, it is wonderful to see an organisation that has grown so much. What started out as a fisherman and his two ambitious sons, eventually developed into a network of multiple companies, some national, others multinational, but an incredible and awe-inspiring success story nonetheless!