North American-based consortium made up of Paine Schwartz Partners, Driscoll’s and others takes control of leading Australian fresh produce company

Costa Group has entered a new phase of ownership with a Paine Schwartz Partners-led consortium completing its acquisition of the leading Australian fresh produce company on 26 February 2024.

Costa’s shareholders voted in favour of accepting an offer of A$3.20 (US$2.10) per share from the experienced North American-based consortium made up of Paine Schwartz Partners, Driscoll’s and British Columbia Investment Management Corporation.

“The Costa team is looking forward to the future and working with its new owners, who given their extensive background of investing in and operating high quality agricultural assets, are committed to further building the business’s capacity and ensuring its ongoing success,” said Costa Group’s interim chief executive, Harry Debney.

Started by the Costa family, in Geelong Victoria, Australia in the late 1800s, the business over many decades grew into a leading global horticultural company, recognised for its portfolio of premium quality fresh produce, including the growing, marketing and supply of blueberries, glasshouse tomatoes, citrus, avocados, mushrooms and table grapes.

As of February 2024, Costa has a production and grower network spanning every state of Australia, China, Morocco, and southern Africa. Costa products are sold into numerous countries around the world, including throughout Europe, UK, Asia, and North America.

Paine Schwartz Partners has a long and established track record of investing in the agricultural and food supply chain, which includes a prior equity stake in Costa. Over the past few decades, the firm has invested US$5.7bn in food and agribusiness. This includes not only companies that grow premium fresh produce, such as Monterey Mushrooms, but also ag tech companies, including AgroFresh.

Driscoll’s is also well known to Costa, having successfully operated joint ventures together in Australia and China. A leader in the breeding and marketing of berries, Driscoll’s is set to add considerable knowledge and resources to the business, and the capability to potentially further the expansion of Costa’s footprint.

“We welcome the Costa Group into the Driscoll’s family and look forward to deepening our relationship with even more deliberate collaboration across the globe,” said Soren Bjorn, chief executive of Driscoll’s. “This is one of the largest equity investments Driscoll’s has ever made, which speaks to the formidable partnership and considerable value we see in the Costa portfolio and the company’s long-term future and growth prospects.”

Costa and Driscoll’s will be working on specific projects to grow the global berry business, in addition to their existing arrangements in China, Australia and the Americas which will continue unaffected.

British Columbia Investment Management Corporation is a major global institutional investor, with C$233bn in gross assets under management as of March 31, 2023. Its investment in agricultural assets includes an ownership stake in Viterra and mushroom and citrus businesses.