Iconic supermarket brands back in Aussie hands
Exclusive: Some of Australia's biggest iconic milk, yoghurt and fruit juice brands are now officially out of foreign hands - and consumers can expect to see new products on supermarket shelves.
Popular milk brands including Big M, Dare, Farmers Union, Pura and Dairy Farmers have been acquired by Bega Cheese through its takeover of Japanese-owned Lion's Dairy and Drinks division.
The $534 million deal marks the locally-owned company's first foray into fresh dairy products, yoghurt labels such Yoplait and fruit juice including Daily Juice, Berri and The Juice Brothers.
Bega Cheese chairman Barry Irvin told News Corp Australia that acquiring the "enviable" brands marked a new chapter for the business, which was traditionally focused on longer shelf-life products such as infant formula, milk powder and cream cheese.
Mr Irvin said the company's immediate priorities would be to identify "efficiencies" in areas of manufacturing and logistics, but shoppers will see product changes.
This could be in the form of new twists on existing products, or adding more convenient packaging.
"What we're quite excited about is the yoghurt business, so the Yoplait and Farmers Union Greek Style brands we've acquired," Mr Irvin said.
"We think there's great opportunity to add additional varieties and convenient packs, and to offer products to different age ranges in a healthy way which we are already doing but will look to expand."
"So our biggest thing is trying to deliver natural products … that are good for consumers in a form that they most desire," he said.
The deal also sees the company add another 13 manufacturing sites to its portfolio, bringing its total to 20 (plus a joint venture) across six states and one territory: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and the ACT.
Mr Irvin said it also meant the addition of more than 2000 workers to Bega Cheese's workforce, but he conceded there would be some job losses in senior management.
"The people that go and produce these products every day will still be required to go and produce them. So we're welcoming a great number of people who we expect will now become long-term Bega employees," he said.
"But there will be some duplication in some areas of the businesses and some rationalisation will happen.
"We will try and make decisions early for people that are immediate affected."
Mr Irvin said Bega Cheese would also look at expanding the international presence of it's newly-acquired products in the future, but said there were challenges given their shorter shelf life.
Queensland University of Technology Professor and retail expert, Gary Mortimer, said Bega Cheese's latest additions already benefited from strong brand recognition which would likely only be enhanced by their Australian ownership.
"Consumers are always concerned about where their product is coming from and manufactured, and by ownership models," he said.
"They are more inclined to buy a product when it's made in Australia by a local company and when they know the money will stay in the country."
However, he added moving away from a global entity like Lion could limit access to capital and make it more challenging and expensive to distribute products worldwide.
Originally published as Iconic supermarket brands back in Aussie hands