SPC factory circa 1925

SPC factory circa 1925

If ever you needed convincing that investing for the long haul in a brand was worth the time, energy, risk, and money, there is evidence aplenty in the remnants of the Australian food industry.

It has been reported that the Peters Ice Cream brand is on the market, again, and being scrutinised by the losers in the WCB takeover by Canadian Saputo, Bega Cheese and Murray Goulbourn.

This makes absolute sense as ice cream is a great product in which to store the value of that highly perishable raw material, Milk, almost irrespective of its consumer profit margins. Way, way better than cheese and milk powder, those other value  stores currently favoured by Bega and MG

Peters was clearly going to be for sale at some point, having been bought and sold many times over the last 25 years. It is currently owned by a Private equity group, who bought it from Nestle, who bought it from National Foods, (themselves later flogged off to Japanese brewer Kirin)  who bought it from Pacific Dunlop, who bought it from Adsteam, and so on. A venerable Australian company  started in 1907 by Fred Peters, but passed around like a like a turd in a game of corporate pass-the-parcel.

Through all that ownership turmoil, restructures, factory rationalisation, re-engineering, asset stripping, and a whole bunch of other cliches, the brand still holds a very significant place in the billion dollar Australian  ice cream/ice confection market.

Similarly, while SPC the company goes to the undertaker, SPC the brand now owned by Coke in Europe has a significant place in European food markets based on the heritage of canned fruit from the Shepparton  region. From almost the formation of the company in 1917 to 1973 when Britains entry into the EU locked out agricultural imports, SPC built a brand that 35 years later is still worth a marketer the calibre of  Coke resurrecting. Now of course, SPC branded product in Europe is grown and packed in Spain and North Africa.

If Australia is to be a serious player in the provision of sustainable long term food supplies for ourselves and export, we desperately need to recognise the role of branded value adding. We need the vision and commitment, emotional, technical, managerial and financial to stop just flogging the tradeable commodity, as we will never be the least cost producer, the only ones who survive in a commodity race to the bottom of the price scale.