Home' Grower : May 2013 Contents The South Australian Grower -- May 2013
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Dick Smith beetroot
labelling stirs up NZ
By GREG SWEETNAM
THE entrepreneur and former Australian
of the year Dick Smith reckons our
tinned beetroot is better than what is
grown by New Zealanders -- and claims this
on labels of his locally grown product.
The beetroot is sold under his food compa-
ny label, Dick Smith Foods, that gives all
profits to charity and trades heavily on patri-
The comments on the can attracted the ire
of United States food company Heinz that
has moved its beetroot canning business to
The multi national, worth $28 billion,
threatened legal action if Mr Smith did not
remove the beetroot cans from supermarket
shelves as it also took a swipe at the compa-
ny for job losses.
NZ growers were also outraged, with the
spat making headlines across the country
that prides itself on its farming prowess.
Talkback radio lines ran hot on the topic.
But one of our countr y's most colourful
characters and friend of farmers is not back-
ing away from his fight for better returns for
growers, even if that means getting our near
It has also given him the platform to out-
line his views on large multi-nationals that
switch farming operations from one country
to another, causing job losses and uncertain-
"Heinz took their beetroot business to
New Zealand because they were saving a few
cents in the dollar," he said.
"I believe they will drop NZ farmers in a
similar way to how they dropped Australian
farmers and go to Peru or some country like
that, if they can source the product cheaper
because they need to continually make per-
petual profits for their shareholders.
"People are not going to eat any more
beetroot. That business model can only go
in one direction for them like it did in
"If these multi-nationals can get produce
cheaper there they will. Where does that
leave farmers in Australia and NZ?"
Heinz is based in Pittsburgh and sells food
in 200 countries.
NZ produce is generally regarded as of a
high quality but Australian food companies,
when faced with cheaper imports from across
the ditch object to the imports that erode
the income of Australian farmers.
Local producers remain angry over country
of origin labelling loopholes that allow fruit
and vegetables to be shipped to NZ from
China, or other countries, and produced and
then labelled in a way that misleads con-
sumers into thinking they are NZ-grown.
There would be no commercial beetroot
grown in Australia if it was not for Mr
Smith's personal inter vention.
He propped-up the largest grower when he
was faced with ploughing his crop back into
He also had to battle the two major super-
markets that initially refused to stock his
product and then took it on in a price war
when they did.
Now his beetroot sells for up to 30 cents
more per tin, he says, and it is selling very
That has been helped along by Heinz
labelling saga, with the company taking issue
with the 425 gram beetroot tins sold as
Magnificent Australian Grown Sliced
The multi-billion company says the label is
deceptive and misleading and wanted the
cans removed from shelves and relabelled.
That would in effect mean all the product
would be dumped.
The product has experienced a spike in
sales during the taste controversy.
Mr Smith says the demand for removal has
now been withdrawn but he is happy to
reprint labels if the company tells him how
many agricultural jobs have been lost in
Australia by it moving canning operations
He had claimed "hundreds" of jobs were
lost in the move but Heinz says only "mini-
mal" numbers of positions were lost.
In the past year, Mr Smith has re-energised
his range of locally grown food.
The food company was established some
years ago but it has been given renewed
vitality as Smith becomes increasingly agitat-
ed at the power of supermarkets and multi-
nationals as they drive prices down.
He has expanded his range to 10 products,
including the beetroot, and spent hundreds
of thousands of dollars on advertising.
He often courts controversy to boost the
profile of his products with an Australia Day
television advertisement banned for being
too racy with several actors saying sugges-
tively "I love Dick" while the Murdoch press
refused to publish full page ads he booked
last year so he printed his own magazine.
Despite his ability to polarise the public he
is a very shrewd businessman and passionate
He says he is fearful that supplying to
multi-nationals is misplaced loyalty by pro-
ducers on both sides of the Tasman where
guaranteed contracts also come with lower
"They are r uthless," he said. "They have
no loyalty to the farmer or a country.
"They have loyalty to the dollar and mak-
ing perpetual profits for their shareholders.
"How then do these companies keep com-
ing up with perpetual profits? They have to
beat down the farmers on price.
"They have to keep coming up with per-
petual profits or they are out of business.
"They are a billion-dollar multinational
and we are a little Australian food company
that gives our profits to charity.
"Only when they were losing market share
did they object to my labels."
And is Australian beetroot really better?
"It's a subjective thing," Mr Smith said.
"We like ours from our beautiful ancient
soils while NZ is a young country with dif-
ferent soils I suppose, volcanic soils. It just
He also reckons it is time for Kiwi farmers
to think outside the box -- something Smith
has been known for throughout his career.
"NZ farmers should stop whinging and
get a Dick Smith of their own for themselves
to create a lot of publicity for their pro-
duce," he said.
"What's NZ good at? They're good at
rugby and growing sheep I guess? They
should stick to that.
Ever the patriotic Australian, Dick Smith has ruffled feathers in NZ by claiming his own brand
of beetroot is superior to theirs.
Heinz took offence to Dick Smith's beetroot
tin labelling, suggesting it was deceptive
Study tour to America
APAL is seeking expressions of interest for a
pome fruit study tour to North America this
winter. It is likely to be during late July 2013 and
will provide extensive learning opportunities for
apple and pear growers. The tour will be a 'user
pays' non-funded event but at group discount
rates. Expressions of interest can be forward to
APAL technical manager Jesse Reader.
Details: email@example.com or on 0419 107 245
More NZ apples
After a tentative start, the New Zealand apple
industry will be looking to send more apples to
Australia this year. Only small volumes of apples
have been sent in the past two seasons, as
exporters and pack houses struggled with
demanding quarantine conditions and rejection of
some early consignments. Pipfruit New Zealand
services manager Gary Jones hopes to build up
exports in 2013. He says volumes of NZ apples
coming into Australia have been small while the
industry has been streamlining the process and
the challenge now is to create greater interest.
Pipfruit New Zealand is forecasting an increased
export crop of almost 17 million cartons this year,
with almost half of that destined for the growing
Asian and Middle East markets.
Emerging leader course
APAL has teamed up with Marcus Oldham College
to provide passionate individuals with a leading
edge to succeed in the fruit industry. A five-day
intensive emerging leader's course is scheduled
for 1-5 July and will be available to growers and
professionals in the apple, pear, nashi,
summerfruit and cherry industries. APAL industry
services manager Annie Farrow said the course
would be available to growers and those within
the supply chain. The course will be held at
Marcus Oldham, Geelong and would be a win for
Details: Annie Farrow firstname.lastname@example.org or
0408 526 786
BLACKBERRY, raspberry, blueberry and strawberry
growers have been asked to mark their calendars
for BerryQuest 2013 to be held from October 8-
10. The industry conference will take place at the
Foothills Conference Centre, Yarra Valley, Victoria.
Field trips, workshops, presentations, forums and
a trade expo have all been scheduled. UK-based
expert Prof David Hughes will deliver the keynote
address with insights into global berry production
Heinz will drop New
Zealand just as they
dropped Australian farmers
and go to some other
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