• John McLean, CEO of Bundaberg Brewed Drinks
    John McLean, CEO of Bundaberg Brewed Drinks
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A network of Australian FMCG brands has launched to provide guidance and support during the current pandemic. Initiated by Bundaberg Brewed Drinks CEO John McLean, its goal is for homegrown Aussie businesses to support each other.

McLean said: “Whether you’re Australian-owned, manufactured or employing Aussies, our national business community needs to be there for each other.

“If the changes brought on by Covid-19 become the new normal, we need to work together to ensure Aussie brands live long into the future.”

Joining Bundaberg Brewed Drinks, the network’s founding brands include Vegemite, Four’n Twenty and Rosella. In a “virtual yarn”, senior decision makers shared strategies to manage current business uncertainty.

“With over 320 years of collective experience, all four brands involved in today’s discussions have previously overcome ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ challenges and know the only way forward is with the support of others,” McLean said.

Bega Foods (owner of Vegemite) general manager Adam McNamara, pointed out Vegemite celebrates its 97th birthday in October. For a brand that has been present in Australian lives for so long, it intends to continue that tradition, he said.

“We’re proud to be a part of a very important discussion today – one that is centred around extending mateship and support to one another, as we continue to produce great quality products for Australian consumers,” McNamara said.

The complex space of FMCG product manufacturing has been made even more complicated by Covid-19, with many more moving parts to get products onto supermarket shelves. McLean said this was even more challenging given the need for consistency and rapidly changing levels of consumer demand.

McLean said it was more than consumers supporting local brands. “It’s about Australian businesses supporting Australian businesses – even if they’re not in the same category. If we can provide insights, suggestions or manufacturing capability that can help others navigate complex times, we will – it’s the Aussie way.”

The iconic Four’n Twenty brand is owned by Patties Foods. Its product innovation is now capturing new markets in the US as well as at home. Patties Food CEO Paul Hitchcock said: “We’re committed to supporting fellow businesses and doing our part to help the industry stay alive – not just for the economy, but for the livelihoods and lives of millions. We’ll all get through this together.”

For McLean: “You never know what you may need help with or when. Now is the time to know the capabilities of our wider business community and start the conversation about supporting each other.

“Procurement of ingredients, logistics, warehousing are all considerations, and during Covid-19, the barriers keep moving. Aussie manufacturers may very well need to lean on each other as the fall out of Covid-19 becomes our new normal.”

McLean said with the complications of global manufacturing, the brands on the call hope to see more collaboration between Australian businesses to manufacture locally and potentially share each other’s capabilities.

“While we won’t be seeing a Ginger Beer and Vegemite-flavoured meat pie any time soon, the support and Aussie mateship between Australian brands will be a reality,” he said.

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