A NEW large-scale portioning, case-ready and value-added meat facility being built near Brisbane to service national retailer Woolworths’ requirements is ahead of schedule, and anticipates opening around this time next year.
The new $115 million facility being built by Woolworths partner UK-based Hilton Food Group is at the Logos Heathwood Logistics Estate south of Brisbane.
Development work at the new Queensland plant had continued ahead of plan, Hilton said in a statement on Thursday, with production start-up now expected from the fourth quarter 2019.
Hilton assumed full operational control of the Woolworths joint-venture further processing business in July, and a full management team is now in place for Hilton Foods Australia.
Output from the new Queensland site will supply Woolworths’ stores in Queensland and parts of New South Wales with retail-ready beef, lamb, pork and value-added meat products. The range will cover portioned muscle cuts, minced items and sausages, and value-added lines.
The facility will process raw material from Woolworths’ northern supply chain, now processing cattle at the Teys Beenleigh plant south of Brisbane, as well as some product from the Teys abattoir at Tamworth in Central NSW, which also conducts a service kill for Woolworths. Tamworth will also continue to consign raw material to Hilton’s Melbourne facility.
The new 45,000sq m Heathwood facility will replace Woolworths’ current Brismeat processing facility next to the Churchill abattoir, which closed last year under financial stress, forcing Woolworths to shift its northern kill operations (on an interim basis, at least) to Teys Beenleigh.
The southern Queensland value-adding project is the third in Australia under a partnership between Hilton and Woolworths. UK-based Hilton is a leading operator of meat-packing facilities across Europe, aligned with some of the region’s largest retail supermarket groups.
The companies established their first joint venture processing facility in Bunbury, WA in 2012, at a cost of around $31 million. A second, much larger $150 million facility at Laverton, near Melbourne followed in 2015. Together, the two existing factories supply meat products to around one third of Woolworths’ retail stores.
The earlier installations attracted some criticism that Woolworths had ignored opportunities to partner with Australian companies with similar capabilities in value-adding, portioning and packaging work, in favour of UK-based global giant Hilton.
The two current Hilton facilities embrace latest equipment, packaging and refrigeration technology, delivering world-class cold-chain practices, included modified atmosphere, darfresh and vacuum skin packaging capacity for more than 110 SKUs, the installation of MHP packaging equipment, racking and automated conveyor systems.
The new Brisbane facility is expected to create up to 500 jobs, some of which will transfer from nearby Brismeat.
Under a new agreement reached in February, Hilton Food Group holds 15-year contracts to supply Woolworths Supermarkets with packaged and value-added meat products. Woolworths recently went past 1000 active supermarket sites in Australia.
In a trading update issued on Thursday, Hilton Food Group reported double-digit volume growth from its expanding Australian operations, covering the joint venture meat processing facilities at Bunbury, WA and Victoria, as well as a new satellite retail-ready mince production facility in Brisbane. Volumes lifted 27.6pc compared with the previous financial year, the company said.
Hilton has commissioned a ‘satellite’ dedicated retail-ready mince production line at a site owned by Melrina in Morningside, in Brisbane’s inner east, until the new facility opens.
Commenting on its financial year results, the company’s executive chairman Robert Watson said Hilton had continued to deliver on its strategies to build a significantly bigger more diversified business across the world.
“We have further extended our geographical reach in Australia where we commenced production and took operational control of two existing facilities whilst constructing a further facility and designing a new facility in New Zealand, which further extends our geographical reach,” he said.
“We remain committed to growing our business through innovation and product development as well as continuing to explore opportunities to expand the business both at home and abroad.”