Australia’s largest family owned red meat processors, Thomas Foods International (TFI) has acquired a 50 per cent stake in meat processing company Frew International. In an unrelated sale, the company has agreed to sell its fresh potato business to Mitolo Family Farms.
Meat processing acquisition
TFI owns meat processing plants in Tamworth and Lobethal and has a planned rebuild of its Murray Bridge plant.
Frew began in 1984 and operates a processing facility in Stawell, Victoria. It has the daily capacity to process more than 6000 lambs, sheets and goats.
TFI CEO Darren Thomas said the investment brought benefits to both companies.
“Both companies have had a mutual respect for each other over many years. We are both family owned and family grown which means a lot in our industry, particularly to our customers and livestock suppliers.
“For us, it was important to partner with a company that has a similar focus on quality and running a business based on strong family values.
“This investment is not only aimed at helping facilitate Frew’s exciting growth prospects but also enhancing TFI’s offering across the meat industry including some of Frew’s existing key markets that TFI has not served in recent years.”
Under the arrangement, both companies will continue to operate independently with Robert Frew remaining as managing director of Frew International and Thomas joining Frew’s board as executive chair to help guide global growth and future strategy.
Frew said he was excited with the partnership. “Our well-established and focused national retail domestic customer relationships and export markets, in particular the Middle East, will benefit substantially through combining our increased procurement, supply chain, access to markets and processing volumes.
“Our two companies had already established a great working partnership, with Holco purchasing products from our company over many years. Today’s announcement strengthens our companies’ high quality ‘farmgate to plate’ offering for consumers right across the globe,” Frew said.
The new corporate structure takes effect from 1 July 2020.
Offloading fresh potato business
Meanwhile, TFI has agreed to sell its fresh potato business to Mitolo Family Farms. TFI said the agreement was an opportunity to focus its attention and resources on core operations more closely aligned to the Group’s future growth strategy.
TFI purchased potato producer Mondello Farms after the Virginia-based business went into administration in 2013. It has grown the business under its Thomas Foods International Fresh Produce company division.
Mitolo Family Farms managing director Frank Mitolo approached TFI CEO Darren Thomas several months ago about selling the potato business.
For Mitolo, the acquisition which is subject to ACCC approval, represents an opportunity to increase capacity and business continuity for packing and grading fresh produce in the Virginia region and to future proof the business through additional farming and water assets.
“It underpins our commitment to quality and reliability of supply to all consumers through our valued retail and wholesale partners and enables us to achieve best practices in farming and technology in our pursuit of excellence,” Mitolo said.
“This acquisition will deliver substantial benefits to all consumers and our commercial partners through increased efficiencies as well as our ongoing commitment to the highest level of quality and service.”
Thomas said he was proud of what TFI had achieved with the business in the last seven years, “reviving a business and rebuilding it into a profitable major industry player”.
“By utilising the TFI group’s global sales network, TFI Fresh Produce has built a substantial export business for potatoes and other related produce. It’s now timely to divest these potato interests and focus on our group’s core local, national and global operations where we see exciting growth prospects including potential future acquisitions, the rebuild of the Murray Bridge meat processing plant and other produce opportunities. We know the Mitolo family well and are comfortable that the potato business will be in safe hands,” Thomas said.
Thomas Foods International is Australia’s largest 100% family-owned meat processing company. Other TFI group companies include Thomas Farms, Holco, Thomas Cappo Seafoods and TFI Fresh Produce. TFI exports across the globe with subsidiary companies located in Asia, Europe and the US.
TFI was #21 in Food & Drink Business’ Australia’s Top 100 Food & Drink Copmanies 2019.