In a PR triumph, supermarket chain Woolworths announced a five-year deal with struggling Victorian fruit packer SPC Ardmona to supply fruit for their Select house brand. The announcement followed an unsuccessful attempt by SPC to obtain financial support from the Australian government.
At the time SPC Ardmona was owned by Coca Cola Amatil, a company described by Prime Minister Tony Abbott as having “plenty of money”. However, commercial decisions by the foreign owners could well have seen thousands lose their jobs and fruit growers in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley have their livelihoods threatened. After the Woolworths announcement, the company expected to process approximately 150,000 tonnes of fruit and tomatoes at their production facilities in 2014 and everyone was breathing a collective sigh of relief.
According to the Woolworths media release, Tjeerd Jegen, Managing Director of Supermarkets and Petrol, said he was pleased the $70 million deal would give the company, their workers and growers some long term certainty.
“Woolworths is delighted to be extending this partnership with SPC to help support the company into the future. We have extended the deal on canned fruit, and added a new supply deal on tomatoes. We know that our customers want to buy good Australian grown products and this deal will see Woolworths Select brand tinned fruit continue to be grown in Australia by Australians.
“Following our switch to SPC supplied canned fruit, sales increased by 48 per cent. This is the first time we have seen growth in the canned fruit category for some time. This brings certainty to SPC and the farmers who supply our Select brand so they can now invest in their businesses with the confidence of knowing Woolworths will stand beside them for the long-term.”
SPC also benefited from extensive public support during the time of uncertainty. The deal followed a surge in demand for SPC Ardmona’s locally grown products, following a social media campaign driven by consumers on Twitter, using the hashtag #SPC, and support given to the Company by the Victorian Government. According to the company, sales also surged as grocery buyers chose SPC Ardmona brands in preference to imported product. This demonstration of support for a local brand may well have been a factor in Woolworths’ decision. The supermarket chain said it would continue to stock SPC Ardmona’s branded products, in addition to the Select range.
In 2019 CocaCola Amatil sold the business for A$40 million to Shepparton Partners Collective.