New Zealand-based Darling Group finalised the acquisition of Brisbane-based JH Leavy & Co through its subsidiary Global Fresh Australia in June. Global Fresh Australia’s general manager Ben Bartlett tells Produce Plus what the move means for the company.
Can you start by providing some brief background on JH Leavy & Co and Global Fresh Australia’s operations prior to the acquisition?
Ben Bartlett: JH Leavy & Co is one of the oldest established fruit and vegetable wholesaling businesses at the Brisbane Markets, and has been trading since 1907. The Tighe family purchased the business from Jim Leavy in 1970 and it has been under their successful direction until the recent acquisition by Global Fresh Australia. Global Fresh Australia was established in Australia in 2014 to continue the vertical integration of the Darling Group across New Zealand kiwifruit and avocados, bringing significant efficiencies to the supply chain. Global Fresh Australia was seen as an important platform from which to build our Australasian business into Asia and beyond.
What was the driving factor behind the acquisition and how will it enhance Global Fresh Australia’s position in the Australian market?
BB: The purchase of JH Leavy & Co was driven by the continued desire to achieve real vertical integration, providing the best value to our growers, customers and key stakeholders. JH Leavy & Co provided Global Fresh Australia with a great platform from which to continue to grow what is already a successful business in Australia and bring what is great about both businesses together. JH Leavy & Co’s expertise in both wholesale and warehouse and logistics service provision also brings a much greater balance to the overall business. Our relationships across Australia, New Zealand and Asia will benefit from a renewed capability.
Has there been any sort of rebranding to reflect the JH Leavy acquisition?
BB: Following the acquisition of JH Leavy & Co, the expanded Australasian group parent company has been renamed and rebranded Darling Group, launched with a new logo which carries the motto ‘Family. Fresh. Fun.’ The group now comprises Just Avocados, Global Fresh NZ, Global Fresh Australia and JH Leavy & Co, together with various avocado, blueberry and kiwifruit orchard interests owned by chairman and managing director Andrew Darling. It is an exciting time for the Darling Group as we look towards the future growth of the business.
The two companies have developed a close trading relationship, predominantly through the export of New Zealand kiwifruit and avocados. How will the acquisition enhance Global Fresh Australia’s programmes with these two lines?
BB: Naturally the acquisition will continue to provide further growth opportunities for New Zealand kiwifruit and avocados. The wholesale and warehousing and logistics capability of JH Leavy & Co fits very well with what Global Fresh Australia were looking for as part of our vertical integration strategy.
Will the acquisition allow Global Fresh to expand its export programmes?
BB: Further export growth is certainly part of our long-term strategy, both out of New Zealand and Australia. We are already a significant export player out of New Zealand into Australia and Asia so it certainly makes sense to complement our current offer with products that are now more accessible thanks to the JH Leavy & Co acquisition. It is still early days, but it is clear that there are increasing export opportunities in the Asian market arena for a range of Australian produce lines. We will be considered in our approach, ensuring the programmes we do engage in provide value across the business, our growers and customers.
This interview originally appeared in the spring edition of Produce Plus.