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Murray McCallum - Freshmax

A big year of business integration sets up Freshmax for future international growth

2019 has been a busy year for Freshmax, focusing on consolidating and integrating the different arms of the company as it sets itself up to grow stronger in the global market, according to CEO Murray McCallum.

"It was part of my role after coming into the business two years ago, to better integrate the different businesses within Freshmax and the group," he said. "So, we have been busy doing that over the past 18 months. This year, in particular, we have integrated together the Freshmax Australia retail division and the Valleyfresh Australia business. We've all just moved in together, in the past few days, and we are all now housed in the same building. Likewise, we have had an integration of our Freshmax New Zealand diversified export business, and our Valleyfresh New Zealand export business. They are all under the one banner now of VF Direct; with different branding, but all under the same banner."

Freshmax is recognised as an industry-leading, full-service produce marketer, concentrating predominantly on core categories - berries, cherries/stone fruit, citrus, pipfruit (apples and pears) and avocados, grown in Australia, New Zealand and countries in North and South America.

He added consolidation continued through the branding and Intellectual property (IP) of its products.

"We separated the IP side of our business into its own stand-alone business called Innovar™, around 18 months ago," Mr McCallum said. "We are commercialising a lot of that IP that we have within Freshmax. So, it has been a lot about the commercialising story, rather than necessarily the discovery of new IP.. We have a fantastic suite of IP within Innovar™"

There has also been a focus on the company's international story in 2019, and positioning the company successfully in the global market. The company recently announced the intention of sale of its domestic division of Freshmax NZ (subject to approval by Commerce Commission), to T&G Global. Mr McCallum explains that while the company had a strong position in that market, it was not a growing one.

"We've looked at the NZ domestic business and it has been a really strong performer for us over a number of years," he said. "It was actually the original Freshmax business and the launching pad for our business. We were approached by T&G earlier in the year, and they were looking to grow in the NZ domestic market, so we saw it as an opportunity for both businesses to consolidate and grow. What it allows us to do is concentrate on our strategy and core categories and invest where necessary."

Mr McCallum recognises the importance of technology, and the leaps and bounds taken by Freshmax in the past year, especially in the area of IP. He says the company is constantly on the lookout to invest and take on new technology.

"It (innovation) is at the forefront of everything we do," he said. "It encompasses packing sheds, warehouses new technology, new growing practices. In our part of the world in Australia and New Zealand, our costs are high, so we absolutely have to be looking towards new technology; whether that be packaging or equipment. It also includes new varieties in our Innovar™ business as well."

With Freshmax adopting a very strong international export strategy, developing and promoting the "clean-green" growing image from Australia and New Zealand, as well as North and South America has been key. Pushing the environmental and sustainable message has again been key in 2019, according to Mr McCallum.

"We are focused on Asia, so the clean and green image of Australia and New Zealand, and across the Americas is important," he said. "Our story is about freshness and sustainablity - so that is always on our radar. Especially, across the Valleyfresh and out International trading Group, we are dealing with growers that are taking on sustainability, through things like packaging and growing practices. So, it is always front of mind for us."

Growing and strengthening the international side of the Freshmax business will be one of the priorities for 2020.

"The recent sale of the domestic New Zealand business allows us to do this," Mr McCallum said. "Next year will be about focussing on the international story. Wherever possible, we will be trying to grow our international export business, whether it be from Australia, New Zealand or the Americas. IP is incredibly important for us, and we are looking to rollout and commercialise IP to build on what we have got."                                    Photo: Freshmax CEO Murray McCallum

For more information
Murray McCallum
Phone +61 3 9688 5100

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