International investment in Australian food companies has begun picking up pace.

Both large and small companies have sold to Asian buyers in recent times, from the billion-dollar deal for baker Goodman Fielder to smaller deals.

But the domestic supermarkets’ pressure for lower prices is eating into profits for food manufacturers, which have been waiting for the good times to roll.

“Having the two supermarkets as customers brings its own complexities,” said David Krause, national leader of food and agriculture for BDO Australia.

“We find the ones who work with those retail customers the best are the ones that do the best out of it, but it is a tough business.”

But the niche Australian brands are being eyed off by investors.

In the past two months, the Philippines company Monde Nissan bought Australian family-owned Wattle dip and biscuit maker Menora Foods, the upmarket fruit drink maker Nudie Juice and dip maker Black Swan for a combined total of $245 million.

That coincided with Wilmar and First Pacific buying Australian bread and margarine maker Goodman Fielder for $1.3 billion.

Grain and Baked Goods

  • Wilmar/First Pacific took over Goodman Fielder, Australia’s largest listed, in a $1.3 billion deal in March 2015. Brands include Helga’s, Wonder White bread, MeadowLea margarine and Praise mayonnaise
  • George Weston Foods owned by Associated British Foods, with brands Tip Top, Burgen, and annual revenue $2.1 billion
  • Arnotts biscuits, owned by overseas Campbell’s Soup Co. Revenue $997 million
  • Kellogg Australia cereal maker, a subsidiary of US Kellogg. Revenue $482 million
  • General Mills Holding, US-based global giant, makes Latina pasta, Old El Paso, Nature Valley snacks in Australia. Revenue $356 million

    Australian owned:

  • Manildra Group privately owned makes flour, starches, fats, oils, ethanol and processes meat on NSW South Coast. Annual revenue $1.2 billion
  • Sunrice, owned by rice growers in NSW. One of the world’s largest branded rice food companies, considering equity share raising. Revenue $1.6 billion
  • Patties Foods, founded by Rijs family in 1966, publicly listed in 2006. Caught up in Hep A scare in imported frozen berries in Nannas and Creative Gourmet brands in 2015. Makes pies like Four ‘n Twenty, Wedgewood and Patties. Annual revenue $242 million

Dr David McKinna, agribusiness consultant, said there was a major turnaround underway, particularly in Australian fruit and vegetable production and marketing.

“A lot are flying below the radar because they’re family and don’t need to report,” said Dr McKinna.

“They’re in the $500 million range, producing lettuces, tomatoes and potatoes.

Horticulture fresh and processed

  • US-owned Simplot, brands Edgell, Leggo’s. Has a deal with Woolworths to supply Australian frozen vegetables. Annual revenue $1.2 billion
  • SPC Ardmona, owned by global Coca Cola Amatil since 2005. Fruit packaging, beans and tomatoes. Overall CCA revenue $5.1 billion in 2013. Competed with cheap dumped imports, forced SPCA to write down. Revenue in 2014 was $400 million
  • Costa Group owned 50:50 Australian Costa family and American investment firm Paine and Partners. For sale for an estimated $1 billion. Australia’s largest producer of citrus, mushrooms, berries, tomatoes, bananas. Revenue estimated $900 million
  • Chinese-owned Bright Food Group bought Mildura Fruit Co, major citrus and avocado producer. Revenue $540 million
  • HJ Heinz baby foods and fruit juice. Warren Buffett bought into Heinz’s parent in 2013. Revenue $539 million
  • McCain Foods, Canadian-owned. Packs frozen fruit and vegetables, Ballarat in Victoria and Tasmania. Closed potato processing in Penola SA. Revenue $502 million
  • Moraitis Group 70:30 jointly owned by Hong Kong-based Chevalier Group and Moraitis family/equity group Catalyst. Revenue $493 million

Source IBISWorld Australia’s Top 100 food and drink companies 2014

Dairy and beverages manufacturing

  • New Zealand Co-op Fonterra earned $20 billion gross revenue in New Zealand and Australia in 2014. World’s largest dairy exporter.
  • Japanese beer and dairy giant Lion is Australia’s second largest, generating $5.3 billion revenue in 2013
  • Australian farmer co-operative Murray Goulburn comes in fifth, with ambitions to grow through a $500 million equity raising. Revenue $2.9 billion in 2014.
  • French-owned Parmalat Australia supplies private label fresh milk and Pauls brand. Generated $1.12 billion revenue.
  • Australian Bega Cheese increased profits to $66 million in 2013/14. Ranked 26th in size, generated $1.14 billion revenue in 2014.

Source: IBISWorld Australia’s Top 100 Food and drink companies

Meat processing

  • JBS Australia generated $3.3 billion revenue in 2014. Australia’s largest meat processor which bought Primo smallgoods for $1.45 billion in late 2014.
  • Food supply and distribution Bidvest, South African company. Generated $2.6 billion in 2012-13. Has bought into Western Australian meat processing.
  • Teys 50:50 joint venture Australian with American Cargill. Generated $2.6 billion revenue in 2014.
  • Inghams poultry processor was bought by US private equity in 2013 for $880 million. Annual revenue at time of sale was $2.2 billion a year.
  • Baiada poultry, Australia’s largest privately owned poultry business, with Steggles and Lilydale brands, has revenue of $1.3 billion.
  • Thomas Foods, Australian family owned, from South Australia, is expanding fast with exports and generated $1.1 billion in 2013.

Source IBISWorld Australia’s Top 100 food and drink companies 2014

Sugar refineries

$2 billion industry, with 24 sugar mills
75 per cent of sugar milling owned by overseas investors.

  • Singaporean agribusiness giant Wilmar took over seven Sucrogen mills (formerly CSR) 2010, and Proserpine Mill in 2012. Annual revenue $1.9 billion.
  • Wilmar now processes about half of Australia’s sugar crop.
  • Australian-owned Mackay Sugar, based in Mackay, has bought out Australia’s most northernmost mill in Mossman, Queensland (mid-2012). Revenue $437 million.
  • Bundaberg Sugar owned by Belgium-based Finasucre since 2000. Revenue $258 million.
  • Thai sugar giant Mitr Phol increased its stake in MSF Limited in 2012, with mills in Maryborough, Mulgrave, Tablelands and South Johnston. Revenue $222 million.
  • Chinese state-owned enterprise COFCO took the controlling interest in Tully Mill mid-2011.
  • Chinese company Shanghai Zhongfu invested in sugarcane in the WA Kimberley’s Ord with a plan to build a $450 million sugar mill.


Extracted in full from ABC.