Com­pany di­rec­tor



You have just stepped down af­ter four years as the Aus­tralian chief ex­ec­u­tive of Kraft Foods, now known as Mon­delez. You have had long ca­reer in the food busi­ness. What at­tracted you to it?

It all comes back to fam­ily and mem­o­ries; if you think of the hap­pi­est mo­ments in your life, it is likely that food, fam­ily and fun were in the mix to­gether. This, com­bined with my love of brands, led me into the food and bev­er­age sec­tor — from Kraft Foods/ Cad­bury, Bar­be­ques Ga­lore, Maxxium [global spir­its and wine], Lion Nathan and McDon­ald’s. It has been a priv­i­lege to have worked with some of the world’s most iconic brands, in Aus­tralia and abroad.

What has in­spired me through­out my ca­reer is the abil­ity to ef­fect change for an in­dus­try that is fun­da­men­tal to most lo­cal economies, and ab­so­lutely fun­da­men­tal to the fu­ture eco­nomic suc­cess of our

na­tion. There are sig­nif­i­cant food and agri­cul­tural struc­tural shifts oc­cur­ring in our na­tion and it is fair to say the soil is shift­ing for the bet­ter.

What do we need to do to pro­mote Brand Aus­tralia in the food­mar­kets of Asia?

We are very­much­seen as the lucky coun­try— clean, spa­cious and safe, high stan­dards of ed­u­ca­tion, full of min­er­als and nat­u­ral won­ders, and a pro­ducer of qual­ity pro­duce and safe in­fra­struc­ture.

Aus­tralian food, as a brand, is ex­tremely well po­si­tioned, but for many com­pa­nies, par­tic­u­larly our SMEs [small and mid­dle-size en­ter­prises], the

thought of ac­cess­ing Asia is far too risky. We need to bet­ter align our na­tional as­sets, and gov­ern­ments need to show com­pa­nies the path­way to Asia. This will fuel in­no­va­tion across the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor with less tell-me-what-to-do, and more col­lab­o­ra­tion and show-me-what-to-do.

We want Aus­tralia to be the food bowl of Asia. What’s hold­ing us back?

Food in­no­va­tion in Aus­tralia has de­clined over the

past two decades. We have lost sig­nif­i­cant re­search and de­vel­op­ment cen­tres and talent to Sin­ga­pore, Hong Kong and Shang­hai. When I travel through

Asia-Pa­cific, it is clear that Aus­tralia is not seen as a high-value food in­no­va­tor; we are seen as a crit­i­cal sup­plier of food com­modi­ties for the re­gion. We must con­vert our farm-gate com­modi­ties into value-add food brands.

We need to make sig­nif­i­cant in­roads in more ef­fi­cient in­ter­modal trans­port, achieve greater hu­man cap­i­tal and in­cen­tivise in­no­va­tion as­sets within our man­u­fac­tur­ing plants. We need to re­duce red tape, cre­ate a cul­ture of re­spon­si­bil­ity and stop lay­ing blame for com­plex so­ci­etal is­sues on cor­po­ra­tions and brands.

We need to back our strengths and de­velop in­no­va­tion frame­works that mo­ti­vate man­u­fac­tur­ing and clus­ter multi­na­tional en­ter­prises, SMEs, higher ed­u­ca­tion and na­tional sci­ence to­gether with com­mon commercial out­comes, which is what we achieved with the Mon­delez In­ter­na­tional Food In­no­va­tion Cen­tre in Mel­bourne.

Kraft is a house­hold name butMon­delez?

I had the hon­our to lead a com­pany that has been a part of the Aus­tralian land­scape for more than 125 years, pro­duc­ing iconic brands such as Cad­bury and Vegemite — brands that are in more than 98.5 per cent of house­holds. They are brands I’ve grown up with and brands that I well and truly love. Mid-last year, the Kraft Foods busi­ness in Aus­tralia changed com­pany names as part of a global tran­si­tion to Mon­delez In­ter­na­tional, one of the world’s largest snack com­pa­nies. Al­though the com­pany had a new name, we car­ried for­ward the same val­ues of our legacy or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Are Coles and Wool­worths too dom­i­nant in Aus­tralia? Should we limit the ex­pan­sion of pri­vate la­bels?

My long­stand­ing view is that if you are a branded player, and you can deliver a branded prod­uct that con­sumers love and will pay for, you have a for­mula for suc­cess. Brands that con­tinue to sur­prise and de­light con­sumers will with­stand an ar­ray of pres­sures.

We have a new­gov­ern­ment with a tough line on in­dus­try as­sis­tance for com­pa­nies such as SPC Ard­mona. What does that mean for the food in­dus­try?

Pol­i­cy­mak­ers have an im­por­tant task ahead to stim­u­late growth in in­dus­tries that will se­cure our eco­nomic fu­ture. We can’t af­ford to play in sec­tors where we frankly don’t have a right to win. In say­ing that, we need pol­i­cy­mak­ers to cre­ate a path­way to help businesses and em­ploy­ees tran­si­tion to right-to-win ar­eas of our econ­omy. I have spo­ken to many se­nior Coali­tion min­is­ters and I be­lieve that they are es­tab­lish­ing the val­ueadd path­way for Aus­tralia food to ac­cess Asia. The 2030 Vi­sion for De­vel­op­ing North­ern Aus­tralia is

“When I travel, it is clear that Aus­tralia is not seen as a high-value food in­no­va­tor; we are seen as a crit­i­cal sup­plier of food com­modi­ties for the re­gion”

an ex­cel­lent plat­form for en­gage­ment, and I think we need some­thing sim­i­lar for south­ern Aus­tralia’s pre­mium food re­gions.

Is man­u­fac­tur­ing dy­ing in Aus­tralia?

If you re­view in de­tail those com­pa­nies fail­ing in the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor, you see a pat­tern of un­der­in­vest­ment in brands, poor in­no­va­tion cy­cles, un­der­in­vest­ment in cap­i­tal and as­so­ci­ated pro­duc­tiv­ity, a sec­tor in fear of the fu­ture and, in my view, an ab­sence of lead­ers who in­spire hope.

How has the food busi­ness changed since you have been in it?

Businesses, in­clud­ing those in the food in­dus­try, are in­creas­ingly re­al­is­ing that col­lab­o­ra­tion and cocre­ation can ac­cel­er­ate suc­cess, which is why I was part of the de­sign of the Mon­delez In­ter­na­tional Food In­no­va­tion Cen­tre in Mel­bourne. We opened the largest food in­no­va­tion cen­tre in the south­ern hemi­sphere, and opened our doors to the wider food in­dus­try by con­nect­ing SMEs, people, state and federal gov­ern­ments, in­dus­try, higher ed­u­ca­tion and tech­nol­ogy through col­lab­o­ra­tive pro­grams — all with an aim of de­vel­op­ing and shar­ing in­sights and build­ing the plat­form to deliver world-class in­no­va­tions. The cen­tre de-risks in­no­va­tion and is a rare ex­am­ple of a multi­na­tional com­pany leading in­dus­try out­comes and fo­cus­ing on the greater good of the food in­dus­try. SMEs can ac­cess these fa­cil­i­ties and launch a new prod­uct at about one­tenth of the cost of do­ing so out­side the cen­tre.

Your long-term view of the global de­mand for food?

With half the world’s pop­u­la­tion growth set to take place on the doorsteps of our na­tion in Asia, the fu­ture looks very bright. We do, how­ever, need to mo­ti­vate cap­i­tal in­vest­ment in the food and agri­cul­ture sec­tor. Many other na­tions be­lieve in this sec­tor, but Aus­tralians ap­pear hes­i­tant. But to be fair, we haven’t de­vel­oped many win­ners. Imag­ine if we could cre­ate com­mer­cially led food and agri­cul­tural hubs to lever­age in­vest­ment, sup­port re­gional de­vel­op­ment, en­hance work­force skills and at­tract more people to re­gional ar­eas?

Did the Asian century re­port last year achieve any­thing?

We will win in Asia, our neigh­bours will win and our planet will win if we truly un­der­stand Asian con­sumer in­sights and play a part in our neigh­bour­hood. But it’s time to move from “telling me” that I should be ac­cess­ing a part of the world that has im­mense growth po­ten­tial to “show­ing me” how to do it, with the right path­way and a com­fort­able level of risk.

The late McDon­ald’s pres­i­dent, Char­lie Bell, was a men­tor. What did you learn from him?

Af­ter my grad­u­a­tion from Monash Univer­sity in the late 80s, I moved to Syd­ney, to take a mar­ket­ing role with McDon­ald’s. I worked un­der Bell, who led with ab­so­lute au­then­tic­ity and in­spired people to re­alise their po­ten­tial on a daily ba­sis. He en­cour­aged me to do things that most people in their 20s would not even con­tem­plate do­ing. He quickly be­came my break­through men­tor. The hope he in­stilled in me still mo­ti­vates me to lead au­then­ti­cally, make a dif­fer­ence and mo­ti­vate oth­ers to do their best.

Re­becca Dee-Brad­bury, in Mel­bourne’s South­bank, ar­gues that food com­pa­nies need to be shown a low-risk path­way to Asia

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