A JOINT venture involving major retailer Woolworths and UK-based food processing giant Hilton Food Group says it is on track to complete its new Victorian centralised meat processing and packaging facility next year.
In a recent trading statement issued to investors, Hilton Food Group said development work being undertaken by the joint venture in Victoria was proceeding in line with the agreed plan, with construction now ‘well underway.’
Hilton continues to explore opportunities to grow its business in both domestic and overseas markets, investors were told.
The UK’s Hilton Food Group is partnering with Woolworths Australia in a 50/50 joint venture, under a subsidiary known as Woolworths Meat Co.
The new Melbourne facility, on a greenfield site near Laverton in the city’s southwest, is the second Australian project for the JV, following the earlier establishment of a Bunbury, WA processing facility in 2013 (learn more about earlier developments in this Beef Central article).
The alliance between Woolworths and Hilton has aroused some criticism from Australian industry stakeholders who say Woolworths currently has a ‘Euro-centric’ bias, and could easily have found a well-credentialed local partner to venture with in the Victorian and earlier WA project.
Prospects for export, using Hilton’s expertise in international trade, has been put forward as one reason why Woolworths chose to align itself with Hilton, and why Hilton found Australia as an attractive expansion target.
Each of Hilton’s central meat packing facilities overseas are operated on a dedicated basis for Hilton customers. Hilton says its business model has been adapted to meet local requirements with customers in each country.
Its latest financial report says it has continued to grow the business, through additional volumes and close cooperation with its retail partners, including Tesco, Coop Danmark and others.
In March last year, the Woolworths/Hilton JV opened its first project, the state-of-the-art Bunbury Meat Centre in Western Australia. The centre cost $31 million to construct, in a move designed to meet the growing demands of WA retail customers for quality beef and lamb cuts and value-added products. It’s reasonable to assume that the Victorian facility will be even larger, given the East coast’s population density.
and industry speculation persists that a third will be built by the Woolworths Meat Co joint venture company, either in NSW, or next to Woolworths existing BrisMeats site near Ipswich, west of Brisbane. Hilton has said it was ‘advising’ Woolworths at its BrisMeats facility, which some have interpreted as an indication of likely further plans ahead in Brisbane.
The original Bunbury facility in WA embraces latest equipment and refrigeration technology, delivering world-class cold-chain practices. It includes Modified Atmosphere Packaging capacity for more than 110 SKUs, the installation of MHP packaging equipment, racking and automated conveyor systems.
Further equipment installations cater for large-scale centralised sausage manufacture, corned meat production and many other value-added lines.
Hilton is one of the world’s largest further-processors of meat products, with operations in the UK and Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Central Europe and now Australia.
The company is said to be the world’s largest specialist retail packaging firm. It recorded 2013 sales turnover of A$2.01 billion, up 9pc on the year before, mostly through large supermarket groups across Europe.
Its alliance with Woolworths in Australia represents its first venture outside the Europe region, in a move the company described as ‘strategic.’
In May last year Woolworths chief Grant O’Brien said the company was considering building factories to produce heat-and-serve ready meals, as existing food manufacturers lacked the capacity to supply the volume and quality the company required to service this fast-growing market segment.