Familiar face takes lead role at Brisbane-based fresh produce company

Jacob Darling will re-join JH Leavy & Co, a leading Australian fresh produce business owned by New Zealand-headquartered Darling Group.

Jacob Darling

Image: Darling Group

Darling has been appointed CEO of the Brisbane-based operation, effective 31 March. He will replace outgoing JH Leavy & Co CEO Ben Bartlett.

The change in personnel is bittersweet for the company, with Bartlett stepping away to focus on his health after battling CKD (chronic kidney disease) for over a decade.

Darling said Bartlett was instrumental in the development of Darling Group’s Australian business.

“When Darling Group acquired JH Leavy & Co in 2016, Ben took the helm and managed a successful transaction, which has provided us a more significant platform to grow from today,” Darling said.

“His attention to detail and high-performance standards have allowed us to continue with the success we acquired and diversify the business to achieve further growth.”

Darling began his fresh produce industry career in the US with Tom Lange and Co. He joined his family’s business in 2016 with a role at JH Leavy & Co.

Darling returned to New Zealand in 2017 to lead Darling Group’s sales and marketing team. Since then, he has driven the development of Darling Group’s international trade and 12-month supply strategy.

He became COO of Darling Group in 2022 where he took on oversight of Darling Group’s New Zealand avocado supply and packing business, Just Avocados, while maintaining an active involvement in international sales and marketing. 

Darling said it was the right time for him to again be immersed in the JH Leavy & Co business, as Darling Group plans to hub its international sales from Australia.