Produced by Rob Benson
For just over 30 years, Primo Smallgoods Group has been in the business of supplying Australia and New Zealand with top quality ham, bacon and smallgoods. In that time the company grew from a small family business to the largest purveyor of processed meats and smallgoods in the Southern Hemisphere. In November 2014 Primo began a transformation, merging with global meat processor JBS. Today Primo Smallgoods is leveraging that comprehensive support with the family business principles that have set the business apart for decades—and finding that there is still plenty of room to grow.
A Sensible Partnership
As Primo Smallgoods CEO Paul Hitchcock explains, the company’s attributes make it a perfect addition to the JBS family.
“Primo is a branded meat business, and we’ve been bought by an organization whose core business is meat and who wanted to invest in branded and non-branded meat assets,” says Hitchcock. “In terms of capital investment, it makes sense for them to invest in a business like ours.”
The acquisition also poses many benefits to Primo Smallgoods as well. The support of a worldwide business like JBS, which has established roots in a number of countries, promises to be a strong asset as Primo prepares to ramp up its efforts in exporting its products in the Asia market.
“Within Australia and New Zealand our distribution is strong,” says Hitchcock. “The benefit with us is into the Asian export market, where JBS has established businesses. It will certainly help our export business, which is relatively small and relatively new. We’ll be able to leverage the JBS Asian distribution infrastructure to grow Primo export sales out of Australia.”
The partnership between JBS and Primo Smallgoods has also extended into the field of philanthropy. Primo Smallgoods processes meat donated from JBS Australia, along with other livestock companies like Wellard Group and Austrex, into sausages for Australian food relief organisation Foodbank. This partnership helps Foodbank achieve its goal of providing 75,000 meals to Australians in need every month.
Building for Innovation and Growth
Growing a business properly requires plenty of groundwork, and Primo Smallgoods has been committed to putting in the time and effort. Recently the business invested $200 million AUD in the construction of a brand new production site in Brisbane, with features like a product development facility, test kitchens and other facilities to develop new products. The opening of this facility has allowed Primo Smallgoods increased opportunity to innovate with new products, like the recently launched olive oil-infused Ham’s O-Living product line.
“That will be a focus—new product development,” says Hitchcock. “We participate in a very large category, and our customers and consumers are looking at us as market leaders to grow that category. A key plank of that growth will be through new product development, innovation, packaging and expanding the smallgoods category.”
Along with the ability to focus on new product development, the new Brisbane production site is also built with extra space, allowing for Primo Smallgoods to add production lines and ramp up its output as it makes moves to increase its export reach.
“We have some quite aspirational growth targets for exports, and what this facility has enabled is that—as we grow our export business—we’re not constrained by capacity,” says Hitchcock. “So a large part of that facility is not only growth for the domestic market, but to provide growth for the export market. At the end of the day, that’s one of the major reasons we invested in a brand new facility that was much bigger than what we need today: it’s been built with the future in mind.”
Growth on Multiple Fronts
With the support of JBS, Primo Smallgoods is primed for growth in several areas. In one arena, the business is ready to take its products to new audiences in Asian markets like Korea, Indonesia and China. Primo is also taking a look at different ways to market and enhance its product lines for growth both abroad and domestically.
“We have really good products that can be consumed at various occasions, whether it’s for breakfast, snacking, lunch or dinner,” notes Hitchcock. “We’re really focusing on increasing the consumption of our existing product range, as well as on new products that are targeting specific eating occasions.
“For example: snacking. We’ve launched a range of salami bites, which are snacking products. Rather than launching a whole lot of new products, we’re thinking about how we can use existing ham, bacon and smallgoods products for different occasions. New products are clearly part of our growth, but it’s also about taking existing products and getting more consumers to eat them on more occasions.”
A Commitment to Quality
What is it that sets Primo Smallgoods apart and has helped the company become a household name throughout Australia and New Zealand? A major component is the brand’s commitment to investing in the quality and consistency of its brand. Part of that commitment is in operations that don’t just maintain the status quo but are always improving.
“Continuous improvement is something we’re always focusing on,” says Hitchcock. “How can we get better? How can we reduce wastage? How can we improve productivity? How can we reduce energy? How can we get better yields out of the meat that we’re using to produce our finished product? How can we reduce packaging waste? Those are things we’re continuously looking at, and we have dedicated continuous improvement managers at each of our two major smallgoods sites [in Brisbane as well as Chillura] that are responsible for helping our teams improve their productivity, reduce costs, and reduce wastage.”
Another part is the willingness to reinvest in keeping the company operating at its best. “One thing Primo has a good track record of over the years is investing in plants and equipment—from new equipment and new machines to just the infrastructure of running a food plant, there’s been a lot of investment to make sure we have the very highest quality and food safety standards,” says Hitchcock. “Quality is one of those things that’s a given: you’ve got to have it, and you’ve got to always produce high-quality products. Every time your customer buys your products, it’s got to be that same consistent high quality, and that’s what Primo products deliver.”
A Can-Do Culture
But beyond that commitment to quality is a company culture that ensures quality continues to stay at the forefront of all that Primo Smallgoods does. A relative newcomer to the company, CEO Hitchcock has found inspiration in Primo Smallgoods Group’s ethics and the company culture that it has cultivated for the past three decades as a family business. It’s an ingrained culture that will continue to abide as Primo continues to advance and grow with JBS and in new markets and opportunities.
“It’s an entrepreneurial culture, and the Lederer family—led by our chairman Paul Lederer—has been a driving force behind the growth of Primo,” says Hitchcock. “It has a very can-do customer focused culture. Nothing’s a problem to the Primo people: we just get on and do it. There’s no bureaucracy, no politics. I’ve found that a breath of fresh air.”