22 February 2023

'Canberra' Milk? Iconic brand moves milk processing interstate

| James Coleman
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Canberra Milk

Made in Canberra no longer. Photo: Canberra Milk, Facebook.

One of Canberra’s most iconic brands is packing up local operations after more than half a century in the capital.

Canberra Milk will shut its raw dairy processing plant on Wentworth Avenue in Griffith this year and shift to Penrith in Sydney’s far west, following a “careful review of fresh milk manufacturing operations in the ACT” by Bega Group, which owns the brand.

“Given there are no dairy farms in Canberra, milk was traditionally sourced from outside the ACT and transported to Griffith for production, often bypassing more efficient and sustainable production sites like Bega’s Penrith facility,” the company said in a statement issued on Wednesday morning (22 February).

“Bega’s Griffith facility has not been operating at its full capacity for some time. This, combined with the fact that there have not been dairy farms within the ACT for many years, has created challenges for the Canberra site.”

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The closure will affect the jobs of 19 employees, who up to this point have been involved with pasteurising, homogenising and bottling the milk onsite, and producing lactose-free milk from 2016. They will be offered redundancy, redeployment or assistance with “job transition”.

The news comes two months after the death of Garry Sykes, former boss of the company who for decades lived next to the factory on Wentworth Avenue and teed up Canberra Milk with the Canberra Raiders for the now-famous green lime-flavoured milk.

Canberra’s first dairy, the Duntroon Dairy, opened in 1832, followed by as many as 13 dairies across the ACT over the next 150 years.

Canberra Milk

Bottling milk in the Griffith facility near Fyshwick. Photo: Canberra Milk, Facebook.

The Canberra Milk brand is more recent, formed when the Milk Authority Act 1971 was established to legislate the supply and sale of bulk raw milk in the Territory.

Bega, meanwhile, has been around since 1960, when the company built a plant at Mildura Street in Fyshwick for processing and packaging milk from farms in the Bega Valley. After 1971, it became a wholesale distributor for The Dairy Famers Cooperative, which took over the production of milk until the two joined forces in 1997 to form Capitol Chilled Foods. By this time, all of Canberra’s dairy farms had dried up.

In 2021, Bega Cheese bought Capital Chilled Foods – including Canberra Milk – for $560 million, as the “consolidation of chilled food, beverage production and distribution in Canberra for almost 70 years”.

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Bega Group’s executive general manager of dairy and drinks Darryn Wallace said the decision to close “was not an easy one to make”.

“We are working hard to manage this change respectfully with all employees, suppliers, customers and partners who have contributed to the local dairy industry over many years.”

There will be no change to the brand or the milk inside the bottles across the Canberra Milk and Dairy Farmers brands.

Bega Group also assures it will maintain a “strong local presence in Canberra”. Both the sales office and distribution centre will remain in Griffith, as well as “all longstanding community and sporting partnerships, which have become part of the fabric of our local operations”.

“Canberra Milk remains an important part of our Aussie-owned and made portfolio, and we are proud to continue our association with local charities, community and sporting partners as well as our relationship with thousands of local stores and cafes,” Mr Wallace said.

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Hasn’t been milk from Canberra for years… why the outrage it’s just a label…. Canberra locals are to blame.

Continuing to call it Canberra Milk after the shutdown is a stupid as GM continuing to use the Holden brand after it closed down the Holden factories.

We all know how well that went for GM.

What a lucrative site this now is, with the Kingston foreshore nearby, Kingston Railway station across the road and only a short walk to old Kingston. Highly desirable residential site I would think, especially for those who spend time in Canberra as well as in Sydney, with the train right there.

I can’t wait to see the Canberra Raiders sponsored by Penrith Milk

Stephen Saunders1:07 pm 23 Feb 23

Once milk is no longer farmed nor processed in Canberra, Kristy is quite right, it’s Misleading Advertising, to sell it as “Canberra Milk”.

Will the reporter be taking this up with Bega Group and the ACCC? Or do we have to do it all for ourselves?

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