A Sunshine Coast icon is about to be transformed into a food and beverage manufacturing and tourism precinct with a fast growing yoghurt company announced as its first anchor tenant.
Organic yoghurt company COYO is redeveloping a former macadamia nut factory on the 170ha Big Pineapple site in order to establish its international base there this year.
Built in 1971, the 16m heritage-listed tourist attraction, which is shaped like a giant pineapple, looks much the same as it did at the height of its fame in the 1980s when it was Australia’s number one tourist attraction.
The planned $60 million-dollar food manufacturing and agribusiness precinct is part of a broader $150 million renewal project to transform the site.
COYO has grown 85 per cent over the past 18 months, CEO Andrew Eves-Brown told Food & Drink Business at the Big Pineapple on Monday. The $3m relocation project from COYO's Yandina facility will boost the capacity of the company and also help kick-start the food tourism hub which will also provide shared facilities for food startups, he said.
“Planning rules are pushing food companies into heavy industry parks, but that isn't where food should be or wants to be. We have the ability here to marry food and tourism – to become a tourist destination and a food and agribusiness hub and we're happy and proud to be involved in that.”
A key part of the plan for the precinct, Eves-Brown says, is to share knowledge and experiences in areas such as engineering, export and sales and marketing, and also physical resources such as R&D, compliance, and cold rooms.
“By working together we can help the region and our businesses prosper, and this food hub really will be a bit of a blueprint for other regions.”
COYO and other local food and beverage businesses, which include Gourmet Garden, Buderim Ginger, Epicurean Products, Kenilworth Dairies, Brouhaha Brewery, Maleny Food Co, and Freeze Dry Industries, are strongly supportive of each other, Eves-Brown says, and to this end created an industry-led not-for-profit group called Food and Agribusiness Network (FAN).
FAN delivers a range of services to support its members to connect, collaborate and grow, and is now run onsite at the Big Pineapple.
FAN's goal is to fuel the growth of the food and agribusiness industry across the greater Sunshine Coast, an area that takes in Gympie, Noosa, Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay, according to FAN general manager Emma Greenhatch, and it now has more than 280 members from across the food value chain.
It was with this in mind, she said, that FAN this week hosted a Meet the Maker event at the Big Pineapple which saw 65 of its members showcase their produce and food and beverage products to around 140 buyers and other key stakeholders including local supermarket groups, distributors, media, and local, state and federal politicians.
“We have 300 guests registered for this event,” Greenhatch told Meet the Maker attendees. “It's safe to say this is going to become an annual fixture on FAN's calendar.”
Some of the more innovative offerings from companies exhibiting at the Meet the Maker event included chicken broth snacks, duck buns, and camel milk chocolates (see a small selection of these by clicking on the picture above).
“We've been located here now for twelve months, and we are incredibly excited about what's happening with the master development and the opportunities it's going to create for the food and beverage industry and food tourism in the greater Sunshine Coast region,” Greenhatch said.
Big Pineapple Renewal project director Jim Costello said the revamped Big Pineapple site would also showcase the region’s famous, world-class produce, with a daily market located on site.
Other new attractions at the Big Pineapple site include The Tree Tops Challenge high ropes and zipline course which opened this week, as well as a major concert event space and on-site accommodation including an RV park and eco resort.
“We see ourselves as a facilitator to take the Big Pineapple back, not necessarily to 1986, but with a 2020 vision to take advantage of these food producers and allow them to facilitate and grow their operations on site, and so a major part of the master-plan we've lodged with the state and local government has been around food,” Costello said.
The revamped Big Pineapple site is expected to create more than 600 jobs, according to Costello.