By Kerrie Lush
It’s no surprise Renmark almond processor Almondco has been recognised as the best regional exporter in Australia, after increasing revenue from less than $25 million to $270 million per year.
Almondco has grown exponentially in recent years and managing director, Brenton Woolston (pictured below), says it still hasn’t reached its peak production which is expected beyond 2020.
The facility receives almonds from 160 growers (about 85 per cent of all Australian growers) and last year processed 22,000 tonne of almond kernels.
Those almonds are sold as natural, blanched and flavoured almonds, as well as other cuts including almond meal and are exported to more than 35 countries – there’s also a strong domestic market.
Japan, India and Europe take a large proportion of the product while it’s also popular in the UK, the Middle East, New Zealand and some South East Asian countries.
“It’s a real coup to be named as the best exporter and it’s fantastic to be acknowledged for the hard work and effort,” Brenton says. “It’s a credit to all involved in the business,” he adds.
During the past decade, Almondco has spent about $50 million on improvements and infrastructure upgrades including buying a $12.3 million hulling and shelling plant at Lyrup in 2012 and installing electronic sorting equipment, automation and food safety systems.
Another $25 million primary processing facility, which has been built in Griffith, New South Wales, will come on line in February.
In 2014, Almondco received a State Government grant of $1.9 million to help with the installation of a $5 million high-tech pasteurisation system for natural almonds.
It’s a long way from its humble beginnings when Almondco’s forerunner, the Co-operative Almond Producers was set up in Edwardstown in Adelaide in 1944.
Initially the industry was centred around Willunga until a number of growers made the move to the Riverland to set up commercial irrigated plantings.
The area planted to almonds has grown significantly, particularly in the past 15 years which has led to Almondco’s increased revenue and subsequent developments.
During that period, the company has also been able to increase employee numbers from about 30 in 2005 to the current 140.
“We’re a large regional employer,” Brenton says.
“This has been crucial for the region when other commodities and industries have been in decline and some of the region’s fruit processing plants have closed.
“We’ve been able to keep local people employed and in the area which is pretty important.”
The company was inducted into the SA Food Industry Awards Hall of Fame in recognition of its global success last year.
The company developed the Almondco Pure range which provided retailers and growers with a no-risk high value natural product.
This multi-million dollar Almondco Pure investment in technology was an instant success and an example of the company’s ongoing commitment to pioneering new industry standards and forging a point of difference.
Almondco was also named of the South Australian Exporter of the Year at Business SA’s Export Awards in October.