We’re happy little Vegemites here at RiotACT HQ today, having learnt that one of the most successful businesses in the capital region, Bega Cheese, has bought the iconic Vegemite brand, returning it to Australian hands.
Imagine going home and telling your family you’re bringing Vegemite back home, and not just to Australia, but to the regional town of Bega where it will be part of the same stable as one of the nation’s favourite cheeses, as part of a business that has operated on our South Coast since 1899. It’s the stuff of foodie fairytales.
Imagine the possibilities that exist to create (and consume!) new products incorporating Bega Cheese and Vegemite. Mmmmm.
The man behind it all, executive chairman of Bega Cheese, Barry Irvin, told a conference call of investors and media at around 10.15am today that the business had grown from “humble beginnings as a small cooperative on the South Coast of NSW to a major ASX-listed billion-dollar business”.
“For me, this a proud day for the Bega community,” Mr Irvin said.
“There are few regional businesses that still have their HQ in a regional area, and even less that have their head office in a small town of 5000 people.”
He said that of the 800 or so shareholders of Bega Cheese, many were the farmers who supplied the company “and also mums and dads from Bega”.
“The wonderful heritage and values that Vegemite represents and its importance to Australian culture make its combination with Bega Cheese truly exciting.
“I think it’s a proud day for us all.”
Bega Cheese Limited will pay Mondelez International $460 million for its Port Melbourne-based Australia and New Zealand grocery and cheese business (MDLZ Grocery Business), including brands such as Vegemite, ZoOsh and Bonox as well as products using the Kraft brand under licence. These included peanut butter, nut spreads, processed cheese slices, ambient cheese spread, mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, Kraft Easy Mac and Kraft Mac & Cheese. Bega will also gain a licence to use the Dairylea brand in Australia and New Zealand.
Mr Irvin said there were no plans for consolidate facilities or cut staff in the short term.
“Our objective today is to give certainty to Port Melbourne staff and the people that operate the business,” he said.
“At this stage, what we’re expecting is to bring across all the staff … we will run the [acquired assets] as a separate business.”
As for whether the investment would impact on Bega Cheese’s existing relationship with farmers in the region, Mr Irvin said he anticipated it would only strengthen ties.
“Our record in terms of how we deal with farmers is a strong one and we’re very proud of it,” he said.
“If you think about this deal, what it does for farmers is give them more confidence that they’re supplying an even stronger business.
“I think our suppliers will be very excited about this, it would give them a sense of security.”
Will we see Vegemite expanding into other markets such as the Middle East?
“We’ve got a very good distributor over there that I’m sure would do a good job with it,” Mr Irvin said.
Here at the RiotACT, we reckon the Vegemite will taste even better once it’s back in Australian hands, and we will take much greater pride in spreading it on our toast with avocado for brekkie tomorrow.
Are you a Vegemite fan? What’s your favourite way to eat it? Will you be hoping for a return of long lost favourites like Kraft Singles, Smiths Vegemite Chips and Cadbury Vegemite chocolate? Or all-new products incorporating Bega’s Strong & Bitey Vintage Cheddar with Vegemite, perhaps?