Horticulture

Book title a good sales pitch

By Geoff Adams

SPC has released a 250-page gloss history book to celebrate the company’s centenary, in the same month that its owner Coca-Cola Amatil has decided to sell the business.

Worth Preserving is the name of the high quality publication, which includes a large number of historical photographs and interviews with people who were prominent in the company’s more recent history.

Coca-Cola Amatil’s group managing director Alison Watkins said a recently concluded review identified many opportunities for growth in SPC, including new products and markets and further efficiency improvements.

‘‘There are no plans to close SPC. We see a positive future for the company as it continues to transform its operations,’’ Ms Watkins said.

Coca-Cola Amatil claims to have invested $250million in the business since its purchase in 2004.

In 2013 and 2014, fears about the closure of SPC brought national political attention, with then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promising to fund investment as part of an election pledge.

The news of the sale has been met with disappointment but not much surprise in the Goulburn Valley.

A former SPC Ardmona deputy chair and a long-time director of merged company Ardmona Fruit Products, Ross Turnbull, said he hoped CCA could find a buyer with knowledge of the industry and a commitment to developing the business.

He said both these things would be crucial to successfully operating the business in the future.

He expressed disappointment that the big CCA company was unable to drive the company into profit.

He thought it unlikely that a co-operative could be created to buy the company.

‘‘I think it needs to be sold if they are not interested in developing the business,’’ Mr Turnbull said.

‘‘I’m very disappointed that Coke has not done more with the business. It is a shame.’’

He said it may have been that CCA had not known what they were initially buying.

Mr Turnbull said the business had some unique characteristics including the seasonality of supply which operators needed to be able to factor in.

He agreed that the business did not have the same pivotal position it once held in the Shepparton economy, as production throughput had scaled down and as growers moved from growing canning fruit to fresh markets.

He said his own family orchards had redirected their supply from canning towards fresh.

A lot of district growers had also exited the industry.