Publicly listed company, Tas Foods is a relatively new player in the food industry, but its brands and products are tried and tested with some being decades old. A common thread they all share is their innovation and commitment to quality. We recently visited Tas Foods in Launceston and spent time with CEO, Jane Bennett. Jane shared with us the vision, future pathway, access to capital, criteria for business / brand acquisitions as well as her insights into leadership. And great insights they are from this accomplished leader, here are the best of the best for you.....
Tas Foods the Company
Jane shared the story of The Tasmanian Food Co and its bold ambitions. A company that takes technically great products and brands and grows them through access to capital via their publicly listed business structure. The company is an umbrella brand focussing on value adding to the brands and businesses it buys. Its reliable customer base is also a foundation for growth.
A dedication to brand and business criteria sees Tas Foods purchase owner / operator paddock businesses that are based in Tasmania. From there management, sales and marketing, human resource management, operational compliance, environmental management, engineering and capital works as well as asset management and maintenance are provided across all the businesses.
A Focus on Tasmania
The focus on Tasmania allows Tas Foods premium branding due to their island status. Tasmania is also on the 40th parallel which provides the most ideal growing conditions in the northern and southern hemispheres. This means a relatively stable climate with limited exposure to extremities and access to water. All these combine to making Tasmania a great place for this business.
Leadership Pathway to CEO
"I have taken the road less travelled and by doing that, I have had lots of opportunities put my way."
Jane Bennett is the CEO of Tas Foods. When asked about her pathway to leadership she shared the following points;
Jane spent her childhood working on the farm. After Year 12 she returned to the farm. At the suggestion of her father, she then studied cheese making. She was the only female and the only self funded person on the program.
"I learn't how to be a minority. There are a lot of advantages to being a minority".
Jane worked for her family business Ashgrove Cheese for 17 years. Ashgrove Cheese was born out of the need for business adjustment following de-regulation of the Australian dairy industry. She worked with her father and brothers to develop and grow the integrated business. After 17 years Jane decided she needed to leave and did so without a concrete plan of where to from here. With a strong interest in community development she worked, studied and provided advice to government. During this time she learn't a lot about communities and their economic development, resilience and drivers of sustainability. She learned that struggling communities were mono - commodity and that prosperous communities had champions with a strong arts culture and often tourism. She believes diversity is what helps a community change and thrive.
Through various roles including being part of a team advising government about communication needs across regional Australia as well as appointment to the ABC board as a rural / regional voice, Jane became a voice of regional Australia.
Developing Global Knowledge and Insight
Jane joined the global program Nuffield and set out to find the panacea of regional marketing. Key things she learned as she visited places across the world are;
1. Effective regional branding has identifiable, geographic boundaries. An island such as Tasmania works well.
2. No one supports place of origin branding more than the people in it.
3. Strong connection with the community.
4. Regional champions - both internal and external. Celebrity endorsement is important.
5. Tourism and a local arts culture.
"The greatest impact you can have is to do something in and influence your community. We can have national impact and live in rural communities."
"A key thing I say in regional communities is that we need to educate ourselves about urban communities."
Jane has 20+ years experience as a senior executive in vertically integrated dairy operations in Tasmania and the UK. Jane is a Director of Food Innovation Australia Ltd and has previously served on the boards of the ABC, CSIRO, Tasmanian Ports Corporation, Van Dieman's Land Company, Australian Farm Institute and Brand Tasmania Council. She was named 2019 Tasmanian Telstra Business Woman of the Year and 1997 Australian ABC Radio Rural Woman of the Year.
Please visit www.tasfoods.com.au and www.thetasmanianfoodco.com.au for more information and insights into the Tas Foods business.
Jane Bennett Photo Credit: Australian Broadcasting Corporation.