Food Manufacturing and Food Processing Stakeholder Consultation – Insights Summary

Stakeholder consultation was undertaken with a wide range of food manufacturers and food processors throughout the Greater Dandenong area by Q Insight and the Food Innovation Alliance.

The following sub-sectors were covered:

  • Diary
  • Meat
  • Cereals
  • Bread and baked goods
  • Biscuits, crackers and snacks

Consultation also included Industry bodies and Government departments:

  • City of Greater Dandenong
  • Department of State Development, Business and Innovation (DSDBI)
  • Regional Development Australia (RDA)
  • Gippsland Agrifood

A survey instrument was drawn up to provide structure to the interviews. Broadly, the topics covered were as follows:

  • Pertinent locational factors contributing to doing business in Greater Dandenong
  • Greater Dandenong’s position within its regional context, especially in the context of raw food inputs being sourced from Gippsland
  • Staff and training opportunities and challenges
  • The role of innovation
  • The role of City of Greater Dandenong Council in enabling enhanced productivity, and relevant Council programs
  • The role of supply chain linkages, and the importance of sourcing quality food inputs
  • The vision for food in the City of Greater Dandenong

Virtually all food manufacturers and stakeholders that were interviewed value the prospect of improved business linkages, enhanced access to local business capabilities and customer insights information.



Interviewed: Arnold May – CEO

Key themes & summary:

In 2010, re-located the Popina business to Greater Dandenong area from Moorabbin. Previously, was situated in 4 separate factories in Moorabbin, and chose to relocate to the Greater Dandenong area to take advantage of affordable land prices, and the proximity to freight and logistics, as well as to other complementary businesses.

Availability of appropriate skilled labour is a factor, as the business is growing, and innovation is a key driver of this growth.

Popina has jointly developed the “BarleyMAX” recipe through a strategic partnership with CSIRO, which caters to an ageing demographic.

The company is engaged in new product development on an ongoing basis, and values innovation within the company, and also within the food industry. The company is engaged in export activities, and values the resources that have enabled this element of the business to prosper.


Gippsland Agrifoods

Interviewed: Paul Ford, Chairman

Gippsland Agrifood has a focus on regional development, and enabling the production of raw food inputs in the Gippsland area.

The Gippsland food was recently published, with a focus on being aligned with Australia’s National Food Plan, bringing a focus on harnessing regional strengths towards enhanced health outcomes and efficiencies within the supply chain.

Gippsland Agrifood acknowledges that there are significant external forces, such as an expected future rise in the middle class throughout Asia which will significantly impact the demand for food grown in Australia, due to the high quality of Australian produce.

As such, improved linkages, enhanced freight and logistics infrastructure, and support for organisations engaged in export are all acknowledged as being significant factors within the regional food economy.

The organisation sees the potential for the continuation of the historical link between the food growing regions of Gippsland, and the food manufacturing and processing region of Greater Dandenong.



Interviewed: Peter Meek, Managing Director

The Australian subsidiary of this American company has undergone rapid growth since entering the Australian market in 2011, with significant growth in its employee base as well as product range.

Chobani sources many raw food inputs from the Gippsland area, and supplies its products to the major supermarket operators. As such, the company is focused on efficient supply chain management,  and sees the potential for the City of Greater Dandenong – and the many food manufacturers and processors located there – to play a role in ongoing improvements in this area.

The company also exports a number of products to Asian markets, and has used innovation and foresight to anticipate and respond to the subtleties and nuances of customers in Asian markets.

Innovation is embedded within the culture at Chobani, whereby employees are encouraged to take part in the innovation process, irrespective of their role within the company. Appropriate skills, ready access to training and ongoing professional development were all acknowledged as key success factors in building and maintaining a strong organisational culture around high quality food.

Peter Meek Chobani


Castricum Meats

Interviewed: Gary Castricum, CEO

Key themes

Castricum Meats has been based in the Greater Dandenong area for approximately 50 years. With a deep awareness of the history of Greater Dandenong, a number of issues were acknowledged as being part of the “fabric” of the area. In particular,

  • the role of Greater Dandenong as a destination for people seeking employment, and
  • the role of the Greater Dandenong area as a market place for food.

As more businesses have come to be located in the Greater Dandenong area, the manufacturing and industrial focus of the area has provided opportunities for those seeking work.

The food industry is well positioned to participate in this employment story, and Castricum has a strong organisational culture of employee participation. However in recent times, a number of challenges in the local workforce have resulted in some difficulties sourcing new employees to undertake apprenticeships.

Strengths of the local area are seen as being well priced land, the recent upgrade to the East Link Freeway, and good road and rail connectivity to airports and shipping ports.


Jurgen’s Swiss Bread

Interviewed: Michael Thomas, Business Development Manager

The Jurgen’s Swiss Bread company relocated to the Greater Dandenong area in approximately 2010. Factors driving this move were the need for a larger facility, and benefits of freeway and road linkages.

Being a wholesale business, supply chain management is a focus for the company, and relationships with key suppliers are acknowledged as being a key driver for growth.

Opportunities were identified for enhanced business-to-business linkages in the area, as a means to unleash the potential for partnerships to drive greater collaboration.

New product development was acknowledged as an ongoing part of the business’s operations, with innovation and product testing being key components of success.

Employment and recruitment processes were seen as adequate, but room for improvement, with employment agencies not always having access to current information pertaining to relevant and required skills and training certifications in the baked goods sector.

Opportunities were identified for increase access to information, especially pertaining to opportunities for collaborative partnerships, contract manufacturing, tendering and business development, and enhanced business networks.



Terra Harvest

Interviewed: Greg Ince, Quality Manager

Terra Harvest has been operating in the Greater Dandenong area since 2001, when it moved into a custom-built facility.

The company has large range of biscuits and crackers, which are supplied in significant volumes throughout national and international markets.

Raw inputs are sourced domestically and internationally, resulting in a strong focus on maintaining high quality across international standards.

Innovation is an ongoing part of operations, with new flavour development and new product development having been executed successfully numerous times over the years, in both Australian and international markets.

A high awareness of recent trends in nutrition and health have proven to drive demand for the company’s range of rice cracker products.

With significant export activities, the Greater Dandenong’s locational attributes were acknowledged as a key strength in relation to accessibility to road, rail and shipping ports.


Noisette Bakery

Interviewed: Gary Geremia, CEO

Noisette is active as both a retailer and wholesaler of high quality baked goods. The company located its operations in the Greater Dandenong area in approximately 2012, due to a need for a larger facility resulting from rapid business expansion, and to take advantage of transport links.

In 2013, the company won the City of Greater Dandenong Chamber of Commerce “Service Excellence Award”, and was also a nominee for the “Employment, Manufacturing and Premier Regional Business” awards.

Noisette has experienced significant growth in its workforce, and actively encourages equal opportunity employment practices. Opportunities to streamline the employment and recruitment processes were identified, by enhancing the provision of information for required food handling standards across different food sub-sectors.

With customers throughout the Melbourne metropolitan area and some regional areas, transportation linkages were acknowledged as a key strength of the Greater Dandenong area.

New product development is an ongoing activity, with new product tasting and feedback embedded within the organisational culture. The company has formulated unique operational methods through a focus on innovation and customer focus.




Interviewed: Leanne

Birubi produce a range of pastries, baked goods and other food products, and have been operating in the Greater Dandenong area for approximately 10 years.

With wide ranging experience in the food industry, the management team at Birubi bring a focus on quality, new product development and strategic business relationships to the organisation.

Opportunities to enhance the sector in the local Greater Dandenong area were identified, including strategic partnerships with research organisations, and enhanced provision of information and capabilities of food manufacturers and processors within the area.

Since many food organisations conduct a large degree of on the job training, these standards must be understood and communicated across the industry. Opportunities for improvement to the existing training and certification frameworks where identified, especially in relation to the HASP and ISO standards, as well as food handling and safety.

Opportunities were also identified to increase mentorship, guidance and support for local businesses seeking to expand their operations and develop new food products.

A strong focus on trends in health and nutrition guides the innovation process for new product development and product testing.

Engagement with the City of Greater Dandenong ‘South East Business Network’ (SEBN) and South East Manufacturing Alliance was noted as having a positive impact on local businesses, as is the presence of the Dandenong Market.



Water Wheel

Interviewed: Sam Brown, Operations Manager

The Water Wheel company, producing a range of biscuits and crackers, has been located in the Greater Dandenong area for approximately 15 years.

The proximity to road and freeway linkages such as the Monash Freeway and Citi-Link, as well as major distribution centres for large retailers are among the locational benefits of being situated in Greater Dandenong.

A high priority is placed on appropriate training, skills and qualifications for the workforce, which has expanded in number over previous years. Ongoing professional development opportunities are provided by the company, with a focus on fostering a culture of quality.

The company that is innovation as a key success factor, and has produced a number of new food products in recent years.

The potential to leverage existing business networks towards enhancing local capabilities was acknowledged as a key opportunity for the area, as is the potential to provide enhanced resources for companies seeking to expand export activities.

The company has a significant level of community engagement, with Water Wheel providing food to “Food Bank” as well as to local schools in the Greater Dandenong area.

“Dandenong is uniquely placed to become a Food manufacturing centre, and a centre of excellence for Food Manufacturing” - Sam Brown