Chinese-owned Kilcoy Global Foods unveils $50m plan for Sunshine Coast facility

February 18, 2022 by No Comments

It’s been slapped with an export ban, faced worker shortages and stared down a volatile cattle market – but a trifecta of troubles won’t stop a Queensland meat processor from expanding. 

Chinese-owned Kilcoy Global Foods has announced a $50 million plan to build a food manufacturing factory on the Sunshine Coast by the end of the year, creating 300 new jobs in the Aura industrial estate.

“We can either sit and complain [about high Australian cattle prices, tough processing margins and global volatility] or we can innovate and grow,” Kilcoy Global Foods Australia president Jiah Falcke said.

Mr Falcke said the company was finalising council approvals with the aim of opening its new facility next year.

“So, we need to take extra steps to provide the food solutions where we can help them minimise their labour, minimise their waste and improve their yields.”

Kilcoy Global Foods has implemented new tracking technology that promises to remove human error and non-compliance from its labelling.(Supplied: Kilcoy Global Foods)

In 2013, the Kilcoy Pastoral Company was purchased by Chinese private equity firm Hosen Capital, owned by a wealthy self-made businessman, Liu Yonghao, who was rated number 69 on the Forbes China rich list in 2021.

Forbes valued Liu Yonghao and his family’s wealth at more than $A13 billion. Their New Hope Group had nearly 70,000 employees and more than 600 subsidiaries in 30 countries.

But like nine other meat processing facilities in Australia, Kilcoy Global Foods is still trying to get an export ban that China imposed lifted, after being slapped with a license suspension in 2020.

People gather in a boning room, which has a white table and hooks hanging from a rack in the ceiling.
Mr Falcke with staff in the boning room.(ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

Company changes market focus

The company has pivoted. Domestic trade now accounts for 28 per cent of sales and South Korea 24 per cent, with Japan and the USA also in the mix.

To address both a worker shortage and housing affordability crisis, Mr Falcke revealed Kilcoy Global Foods had drawn up a development proposal for land around its abattoir.

It would include homes for individuals and families, a clubhouse, gym and options for eating out.

Mr Falcke said the company employed 1,600 people at Kilcoy and, as of last week, had its immigration licence for skilled Filipino meatworkers and their families re-approved.

People sitting around a table wearing virtual reality goggles.
Kilcoy Global Foods uses virtual reality to take customers through the supply chain.(ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

Research and development

In May last year, Kilcoy Global Foods launched an Innovation Hub at Birtinya, in partnership with Meat and Livestock Australia and the Australian Meat Processor Corporation.

Complete with virtual reality goggles, the hub is designed to give customers a paddock-to-plate experience and includes a boning room to explain cuts of meat and a fully equipped commercial kitchen and dining area.

Looking through an internal window to a chef at work in a commercial kitchen.
A full commercial display kitchen at Kilcoy Global Foods Birtinya hub.(ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

Executive chef Andrew Hearnden is already working on recipes, technology, and ideas for the company’s new food manufacturing facility.

“The hospitality industry really is struggling, struggling to get staff, struggling to get ingredients. I’m passionate about that industry,” Mr Hearnden said.

A chef with a tattooed arm, grills meat.
Kilcoy Global Foods executive chef Andrew Hearnden.(ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

International trade

Kilcoy Global Foods CEO Dean Goode said he expected the Innovation Hub would attract customers, including chefs, from around the globe.

A man smiles in front of meat hanging in a fridge.
Kilcoy Global Foods CEO Dean Goode is excited about the expansion plans.(ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

Beef bible online

Last night, AUS-MEAT, funded by Meat and Livestock Australia and the Australian Meat Processor Corporation, chose the hub to launch its new app, a digital version of the Handbook of Australian Meat.

AUS-MEAT CEO Stephen Crisp said the free app improved accessibility, portability and transparency for salespeople and buyers around the world.

A man standing in front of a fridge of hanging beef holds up an i-pad with an app open on it.
AUS-MEAT CEO Stephen Crisp with the new app.(ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

“We supply the basis of the whole language so the beauty of the app is you can send the link to anywhere in the world and have that conversation saying, ‘This is the product, these are the specifications, this is the label’ — this is how it has to be presented in the documentation for that particular country,” Mr Crisp said.

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