Family. Fresh. Fun. It’s the tagline of newly formed brand Darling Group, which incorporates long-established businesses Global Fresh New Zealand, Global Fresh Australia, Just Avocados and, most recently, JH Leavy & Co.
Since acquiring the Brisbane-based wholesaler JH Leavy & Co in July 2016, the group of companies decided it needed an overarching brand for its horticultural operations, which range from growing and packing to exporting, sales and marketing, as well as distribution and logistics.
“We engaged a brand specialist in New Zealand, where we went through a process of looking at our core values, what we represent, and what we’re trying to achieve,” explained managing director Andrew Darling. “And through that process we came out with our brand – Darling Group.”
The tagline ‘Family. Fresh. Fun – Australasia’s favourite fresh produce family’ reflects the group’s family involvement in the business, not only with Andrew Darling, his sons Jacob, Nathan and Andrew’s brother Michael, but also in its familial approach to business, including its relationships with staff and customers.
Some of the brands under Darling Group include Mr Avocado, Mr Kiwi and a soon-to-be-released blueberry brand, reflecting some of the fun side of the family-owned vertically integrated business.
As a significant grower of kiwifruit and avocados in its own right, Darling said the group understands the needs of growers, and the requirements from packing to exporting, importing to wholesaling, bringing efficiencies throughout the value chain.
“Because we’re integrated through the value chain, we can operate efficiently while having total transparency of cost, and we control the sale – this is our point of difference and we’re striving for outstanding grower outcomes through our use of high performing, experienced people,” Darling explained.
With state-of-the-art ripening facilities and 4,500m2 of warehousing space, the acquisition of JH Leavy & Co has significantly upped Darling Group’s scale and capability.
“One of the challenges of operating out of New Zealand is that we are constrained not only by the range of commodities that we have available but also the volume of these commodities that we can produce in respect to international marketing opportunities,” Darling said. “So these were some of the real drivers to set up in Australia, and here we now have a broad base of commodities with a real Australian platform and presence.”
The next step for the group will be consolidating until it fully understands the breadth of its new business arm, maximising its wholesale, warehousing, distribution and service provision, including ripening, with a look to start taking the business to retailers in the coming 12 to 24 months.
“The way of the future is with direct supply to retailers, so that’s an obvious place that we’ll begin to seek business with our raft of commodities,” Darling said.
The breadth of commodities that Darling Group now has access to, as well as the scale, not only creates opportunities for the business in Australia, but also in Asia.
“There are opportunities to take healthy, safe and high quality food from Australia to Asia; as the middle class grows in India and China, and people are becoming more connected with internet and mobiles, and increasingly seeking healthy safe food, we’re well positioned in Australia and New Zealand to cater to that demand for high quality fruit.
“I see providing high quality produce to affluent, top end retailers and the middle class as a massive opportunity,” Darling continued. “It’s exciting – produce, generally, is an exciting industry to be in and it’s full of passionate, hard working people, which makes it fun and a great place to be.”