Impact investing firm Blue River Group have announced their purchase of the Riverina Fresh dairy brand from previous owners Fonterra, with stakeholders meeting with farmers last week to discuss the changeover.
Riverina Fresh employ 80 workers at their Wagga Wagga processing plant, and draw on 21 local suppliers in the Riverina region. Their new owners have guaranteed employment and continuity of contract to current staff and suppliers.
Blue River Group are a year-old investment group with the twin goals of achieving a financial profit, as well as creating positive social and environmental impacts through their investments.
Their co-founder and CEO Craig Shapiro said Blue River Group will be focusing on expanding the output of Riverina Fresh.
“We’re excited by the opportunity to grow a business that has a dedicated and committed workforce and provides significant regional employment opportunities. Equally, we look forward to building on the existing strong relationship with the local farming families and distributors that stand behind the Riverina Fresh brand,” he said.
Tumut dairy farmer Kevin Malone, who supplies to Riverina Fresh, is cautiously optimistic about the new owners.
“They say that they’re in business not only to make money but also to have a positive environmental and social impact. Whether they walk the talk we’ll have to see,” he said.
“We don’t know much about the company, they’ve only been going for 12 months. I don’t know what they’ve paid for the business but it’s certainly worth more to them as a working business than as wood and concrete, and they should want to see it progress – and if they wish to progress they’re going to need suppliers.
“This has come as a surprise, we were surprised to hear how quickly it happened. It seems that all of the staff will be retained so it should be a positive changeover and hopefully the community will continue to support the Riverina Fresh brand.
“If we can all work together then great! I believe they’re going to go about things in a positive way and try and develop the business, and if they develop their business then we can develop ours, along with all the farmers in the Riverina.”
The sale from Fonterra to Blue River Group is expected to be completed in October.
Fonterra said its reasons for the sale are that it is part of a larger divestment strategy of selling off their non-core assets. The New Zealand based company are also parting ways with their yoghurt and dairy dessert businesses, their Bega shares and their stake in Dairy Technical Services.