In December 2022, Food & Drink magazine published a feature on Australia’s 100 top food companies. Of the ten top food companies (based on revenue), four were locally owned.
The number one food company operating in Australia was Fonterra, which is headquartered in New Zealand. Fonterra was described as “a multi-national dairy company owned by the local dairy farmers that supply the company”. The company has eight manufacturing plants in Australia and among its brands are Western Star Butter and Mainland and Perfect cheeses. Strangely, Fonterra also owns the Bega brand so, the Bega cheese you buy is not actually made by Bega. Go figure.
In the rankings, Fonterra was followed by the meat processor JBS Australia, Asahi Holdings and Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, all of which are foreign-owned. Coming in at No. 5 was the largest of the top food companies to be Australian-owned: Bega Cheese. Bega made much of its local ownership when it acquired Vegemite and other Kraft brands from Mondelez International in 2017. In 2020, Bega acquired Lion Dairy and Drinks from the Japanese company, Kirin. This means the company’s brand portfolio includes such well-known names as Farmers Union, Berri, Yoplait, King Island Dairy and Pura Milk.
Filling out the remaining places in the top ten were Saputo Australia (Canadian), Ingham’s (Australian), Treasury Wine Estates (Australian), and two meat processing firms that you’ve probably never heard of. Thomas Foods International (No.9) was founded in 1988 and is based in South Australia. The company processes, distributes and exports a range of meat and seafood, sourced from farmers, mainly in south-eastern Australia. Teys Australia traces its history back to 1946 when the four Tey brothers, Cid, Cliff, Mick, and Max, opened a butcher shop in Woolloongabba, Brisbane. In 1954 they bought a cattle yard, then built a processing plant and began to export meat. Teys was wholly Australian-owned until 2011 when the company joined forces to form a 50:50 venture with an American company, Cargill.
Working down the list of top food companies, we find a further 15 of the top 50 are locally owned with another 29 Australian-owned firms gaining a place in the top 100. Among them are familiar brands such as San Remo, Cobram Estate, Coopers and Vittoria. Many companies with a proud Australian heritage, including Peters Ice Cream, Arnotts and Patties Pies (makers of Four’n Twenty Pies) are now in foreign hands. That being said, these companies are still operating in Australia and providing thousands of Aussies with jobs. It’s just that the profits, instead of staying here, go offshore.