2003 Four ‘n Twenty Australian again – for 19 years

In 2003, Patties Pies bought Four ‘n Twenty, Herbert Adams and Nanna’s from Simplot, putting the iconic pie brands back in Australian hands and flying in the face of a trend towards foreign ownership of Australian food and beverage manufacturing. It wasn’t to last, however. In September 2022 Patties Foods was sold to the Asian investment group, PAG.

Patties traces its history back to 1966 when Peter and Annie Rijs bought a small cake shop named Patties in Lakes Entrance, Victoria. As they expanded their range, their pies became more and more popular and distribution widened.  In 1974 they built a new bakery in Lakes Entrance, moving the operation to the former Sunicrust bakery in Bairnsdale two years later. Further expansion followed with the brand becoming known for party pies and other finger foods.

At the time of purchase, Four ‘n Twenty had been under foreign ownership for eight years. Simplot, a family-owned American company, began as a one-man potato farming operation in 1929. It was the first company to develop commercially viable French fries in the late 1940s and became the exclusive supplier of fries to McDonald’s. The company diversified and expanded, arriving in Australia in 1995 and acquiring a range of local food brands.

Four ‘n Twenty, along with Birds Eye, Leggo’s, Chiko and Edgell, was among the brands Simplot bought from Pacific Dunlop in 1995. Pacific Dunlop had acquired the brand, along with Birds Eye and Edgell, with its purchase of Petersville in 1991. The inventor of the Four ‘n Twenty pie had sold the brand to the Victorian division of Peters Ice Cream in 1960.

The Patties purchase saw manufacturing of Four ‘n Twenty moved to Bairnsdale, Victoria, with the plant in Kensington being closed. More than 200 workers at the Melbourne factory lost their jobs. The acquisition of several of Australia’s best-known pie brands (Wedgwood, Herbert Adams, Boscastle’s Nanna’s) in 2003 took the company to a new level and they claimed to be the biggest pie manufacturer in the world.

In 2006, Patties Foods was listed on the stock exchange. The company proved attractive to the Asian investment group, PAG, which acquired Patties in 2022. At the same time, PAG acquired Vesco, makers of frozen food products including Lean Cuisine. PAG stated that:

The acquisition of these two leading Australian companies is the latest investment by PAG’s Australian-based private equity team in the food and consumer sector…PAG has an extensive track record of supporting growth for its portfolio companies, having previously acquired The Cheesecake Shop – the largest franchised bakery network in Australia and New Zealand – and successfully expanding the business’ network and footprint across its markets.

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