23 OCTOBER 2023: A major pivot by Australia’s largest family-run beef supply chain saw Australian Country Choice (ACC) recognised at the Lord Mayor’s Business Awards in Brisbane on Friday night.
The Queensland-based company was rewarded for its operational transformation that included a shift to a multi-client customer base, a move towards premium Wagyu and Angus cattle and the launch of its own-branded export product – despite COVID, changes of senior leadership and a volatile international marketplace.
CEO Anthony Lee said: “In three years we had to change our business completely. When you think about the scale of our challenge and what we’ve had to do, it is a massive effort from our staff.”
The changes required were to every part of ACCs supply chain including major technological and operational upgrades. The shift to premium Wagyu and Angus cattle saw bigger-bodied animals joining the product mix, along with a multiple of customers.
It required a $50m processing plant retrofit and many millions of dollars towards retrofitting the feedlots and changing the herd genetics. The facility retrofit was coupled with a major technology upgrade using Australian-developed processing automation. All of the work was completed in 2023 with no disruption to production.
Mr Lee said: “In the three months to May, 2022 we did not produce or sell any own-brand meat products. In the three months to May, 2023 we exported more than 3.3m kgs of beef products to 17 new export markets
“We achieved this growth amid the backflow of COVID and a volatile international marketplace that included suspension from our biggest marketplace, China.”
Released from a 40-year exclusivity deal with a major Australian supermarket gave the company a chance to review its market and meet the exciting opportunities of export with its own-branded product.
Mr Lee said: “We had to differentiate our product, known as 1620 Beef, from that of ongoing service-processing customers – most of whom are also exporters. To do this we established a niche product defined by the length of time the cattle are on feed.”
Now, about 30 per cent of cattle processed at ACC Cannon Hill goes into this own-brand program.
“Establishment of key markets in Indonesia, Korea and Japan have underpinned our export success. Sales by value to those countries lifted by 242%, 291% and 253% respectively between FY20/21 and FY22/23,” Mr Lee said.
“And it hasn’t just been a change of customer base and physical assets, we have also changed our systems, bringing in new ERP and BI platforms required for a more complex business model.”
“While it has been challenging, it has also been a very positive change. Nothing lasts forever and any business must be robust and nimble enough to pivot when required,” he said.
“The change has made us focus on every facet of our business and ensure it is set up appropriately. It’s been a good health check. We’ve had to tender and win every new customer; it’s been very pleasing to know we can compete against anyone in our industry.”
This morning he addressed the staff at the Cannon Hill processing plant saying: “I know it’s been a lot of pain and angst however this award reinforces just what a huge change it has been for the team – not just one person, not just one department, but it’s the whole team at ACC.”
Pictured below: Anthony Lee and (L to R) Anthony Lee, Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner and Trevor Lee.