On 31 January 1918 the manager of the Shepparton Fruit Preserving Company announced that canning would begin on the following Tuesday and that the operation would require 150 girls or women and 30 men. In the wake of World War I, it was hoped that “the launch of this new industry must revive drooping energies” and improve the economic circumstances of the region.
SPC was begun with an injection of government funds. Because of a late start to the 1918 season the canning line only ran for seven weeks and handled a total of 350 tons of fruit. The company had mixed fortunes over the next few years, struggling to make a profit. More government money was committed and in 1925 a record quantity of fruit was exported to London.
By 1929 all government loans and interest had been repaid. The company began to pay annual bonuses to grower-shareholders, and the plant was updated and expanded. The success of SPC was inextricably linked with the progress of the town and the wider Goulburn Valley region. In 1936 the company packed 12 million cans and was the largest fruit cannery in the British empire.
Through World War II the company boomed. The product range was expanded to include additional fruits, jam, baked beans and tinned spaghetti and production reached more than 43 million cans a year in the 1970s. From financial difficulties caused by the 1980s recession, SPC returned once more to profitability, merging with Ardmona and buying rival company Henry Jones IXL.
The success made the company an appealing prospect for CocaCola Amatil, who acquired SPC Ardmona in 2005. But the fortunes of SPC reversed yet again. The contracts of many local growers were cancelled in 2013 and the company again sought government support. The Federal Government refused, but the Victorian Government came to the rescue with an investment of $22 million. Woolworths helped out with a five-year deal to buy its private label tinned fruit from the cannery. However, two years later, the supermarket giant walked away from the deal.
Although CCA were hopeful of a turnaround in the business and talked up its prospects, in 2019 the multi-national divested itself of the company. The purchasers were Shepparton Partners Collective, a joint venture between private equity firms Perma Funds Management and The Eights. The new owners said:
“There is enormous opportunity to grow this unique 100-year-old brand further domestically and internationally, sending some of the best products Australia has to offer around the world.”
SPC continues to supply a range of products under the SPC, Ardmona, Goulburn Valley, Provital and Pomlife brands.