Repost: Bellamy’s Organic’s winning formula impresses on ASX debut

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“But the most important thing we’ve done is develop a brand.” – Laura McBain, CEO

See original article HERE www.smartcompany.com.au Wednesday, 06 August 2014 1:42

by ELOISE KEATING

Investors have welcomed Tasmanian baby food producer Bellamy’s Organic onto the Australian Stock Exchange with open arms.

Shares in the formerly family-owned company were initially offered at $1 but trading in the stocks opened at $1.31 at 11am on Tuesday before quickly rising to $1.34.

At the time of publication, the stocks were trading at $1.38.

The strong debut has given the business a market capitalisation of more than $120 million, significantly higher than the $95 million indicated by the initial public offering.

One of the shareholders keen to secure a piece of Bellamy’s was BRW Rich Lister Bruce Neill, whose company Quality Life has snapped up a 8.62% share in the organic food producer, according to Fairfax.

Twenty-five million shares were offered in the initial public offering, with the total number of shares in the company now totalling 2.2 billion.

As previously reported by SmartCompany, the IPO also allowed Kathmandu founder and former BRW Rich Lister Jan Cameron to sell down her stake in the business.

Bellamy’s Organic managing director Laura McBain described the debut as “outstanding”, telling SmartCompany this morning the strong result “shows the confidence investors have in the Australian food industry, not just within Australia but in other countries too.”

McBain says the good news for the company was also boosted yesterday with one of Bellamy’s long-term partners, dairy producer Tatura Milk Industries, receiving official accreditation as a supplier of certified organic baby formula in China.

“This is something we had expected to occur, it’s great for us,” says McBain. “It’s a great time for us to be able to let everyone know our growth strategy is on track.”

Bellamy’s Organic was founded as a family business in Launceston in 2004, before being purchased by investor group Tasmania Pure Foods in 2007. The company produces around 30 products which are 100% Australian-made and certified organic.

McBain describes Bellamy’s journey from a “mum and dad business in Tassie” to an ASX-listed company as “an amazing story”.

“It’s a little bit of creating your own timing,” says McBain. “And you’ve got to be ready to take the opportunities as they arrive.”

McBain says Bellamy’s “started out with just a few people doing lots of things”, but over time the company has built the infrastructure and processes it needed.

“But the most important thing we’ve done is develop a brand.”

“Bellamy’s is a trusted brand and mums really engage with it,” says McBain.

“And we’ve made sure the brand is not just for Australian mums but resonates with every mum around the globe.”

Partnerships with other suppliers, such as Tatura Milk, have been essential to Bellamy’s success, says McBain.

“Partnerships are really important. We’re really good at what we do and [our partners] are great at doing what they do. It’s a great model to integrate our experience and knowledge and work collaboratively,” she says.

Janine Cox, senior analyst at Wealth Within, told SmartCompany Bellamy’s strong debut is a “great result for the people who have invested in the stock and the company”.

But Cox says it’s important to “factor in we’re in a bull market” and that can influence whether or not a stock exceeds expectation.

Cox says Bellamy’s debut also highlights the importance of timing for companies preparing to float, and believes the company gained popularity because it “offers something a bit different”.

Cox says the real test for Bellamy’s will be the in the three to 12 months after listing, as more information becomes publicly available about the company.

Repost: Tasmanian accountant Laura McBain took Bellamy’s Organics to a Chinese export bonanza

First published June 3rd, 2014 in Public Accountant

See original article HERE

When she looked at her revenue breakdown, Laura McBain made the decision that turned Bellamy’s Organic into a major Chinese food brand. – By Claire Heaney

Laura-McBain
Photo: source supplied

A surprise pregnancy saw young accountant Laura McBain trade the hustle and bustle of Sydney for the more sedate pace of Tasmania, in a bid to balance her fledgling career and family.

But instead of embracing the quiet life, she has ended up heading a dynamic organic baby food company that is turning heads on the international stage.

“I started my accounting career straight out of high school, and I did a cadetship with Crowe Horwath [formerly WHK] while I was at university,” says McBain.

That’s when the career plan hit “a spanner in the works” – the arrival of a baby for McBain and her husband.

Despite returning to work after the birth, the grind of the Sydney commute proved too much and the couple decide to move closer to her parents-in-law, in Tasmania. Ironically, the in-laws soon returned to New Zealand, but she has never regretted the shift.

“It is a fabulous place to raise a family and you are two minutes from the office,” she says.

Even back then, McBain says she knew she wanted to run her own business. “That was the driver,” she says.

McBain was a senior accountant at Launceston firm Ruddicks when she first encountered start-up Bellamy’s Organic.

A family business launched in Launceston in 2004, Bellamy’s was undercapitalised and its financial controller had left. McBain was seconded to the company to take over the controller’s job – and found herself unexpectedly exhilarated.

“All of a sudden, I found myself doing everything that I had ever wanted to do,” she says.

“Bellamy’s was a private company but owned by a group of shareholders … it was a bit of a pressure cooker. It was a crazy time.”

McBain says that under the secondment arrangement, she was supposed to be working four days a week at Bellamy’s and one day in the Ruddicks office. But she soon found herself working at Bellamy’s on weekends because of the workload. “It was a massive commitment,” she says. “You got caught up in the passion and you could see what it was capable of doing. It was a great brand and a great product.”

When the secondment ended, she went back to her normal accountancy job, but Bellamy’s came knocking, appointing her general manager in the first few weeks of 2007.

“I remember standing in the kitchen with my husband and saying: ‘This is such a massive, massive risk’,” she recalls.

But husband Roger McBain, also an accountant and a partner with Deloitte in Launceston, urged her to run with it, telling her she would never get an opportunity like it again.

“I managed the whole thing, answering the phones, talking to mums about their babies’ health requirements, answering questions about poo,” she says.

“Then, the next minute I would be talking to Coles and Woolworths or to the banks.”

Bellamy’s was taken over by a Tasmanian group of investors under the Tasmanian Pure Foods Ltd banner. McBain began using Tasmanian Pure Foods chairman and current Bellamy’s director Rob Woolley as both mentor and sounding board. Together they sat down and crunched the numbers. “I got to know Laura and we had the view that there was an ability to develop the business,” he says.

Bellamy’s sold off its orchard and factory to concentrate on the brand and logistics. It fine-tuned its marketing message to tell mums why they should prefer Bellamy’s to conventional products.

But the firm had bigger issues. McBain was also slowly realising that Coles’ and Woolworths’ purchases – at that time accounting for 90 per cent of Bellamy’s business – were a point of vulnerability. The supermarket giants were supportive. But if they walked away, Bellamy’s would fold.

McBain doesn’t remember any one particular “light bulb moment”, but she does recall that “there were times when products were deleted from trade – which reminded us that we were small and vulnerable and needed something big to happen to change that”.

Knowing the limits of the Australian market, they looked abroad. “The company had changed hands on the basis that we could grow this thing, so we had to look outside of Australia,” says McBain.

China was the obvious launching place. “We have 200,000 babies born in Australia every year; they have 20 million in China and the same again in Southeast Asia,” she says. “There was a huge opportunity to go offshore.”

McBain had some friends in Shanghai, so she decided to try her luck there.

“Rob Woolley and I pretty much got on a plane and met some Australians and had a look around,” she says.

“We started building a network in China with lawyers, other accountants, PR companies, and a lot of them were ex-pats,” she adds.

The organic product struck a chord with Chinese mothers looking to protect their babies, usually their only child. “We fit into the super-premium infant formula category. We are highly regarded. The mums buying it are looking for safe, 100 per cent certified organic product,” she says.

McBain, who became chief executive officer in 2011, says her work in the accounting firm, dealing with a range of micro, small and big businesses, was a big help.

“You get to see all of those ways of operation and see how these companies harness all those experiences in order to set your own goals,” she says.

A national finalist in last year’s Telstra Business Woman of the Year Awards, winner of the national private and corporate sector category and Telstra Tasmanian Business Woman of the Year, McBain says Bellamy’s is now balancing its books, with 12 per cent of the Australian market.

The company employs 30 people directly and up to 300 indirectly – “we’re a significant employer in Tasmania” – and is on target to reach $50 million in revenue this current financial year, up from $3 million in 2007.

“Half our market is in Australia and the other half is in export,” she says. “We are looking to continue to grow both streams. There is a lot of pessimism around the Tasmanian economy and future industry, and what we can do here is great, setting an example of what is possible.”

And, she adds, the best is yet to come. “We are really a baby still in terms of the food industry. This company could be a real player, a real pioneer. I would like to see Bellamy’s achieve world domination, and then I will worry about what happens next.”

– By Claire Heaney

Repost: McBain taking formula for success to China

First published January 25, 2014 12:00AM in THE AUSTRALIAN

See the original article HERE

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Photo: Bret Salinger

IT is the dream of many small Australian food manufacturing companies to crack the booming China market. And right now Laura McBain is living it.

Her Launceston-based baby and toddler food company Bellamy’s Organic has increased revenues 10-fold over the past six years and this year they will top $50 million.

“We now have the opportunity to get to $100m turnover and we can do that within two years because we really have been supply constrained for such a long period of time,” McBain tells The Weekend Australian, reflecting on the supply dynamics of a sector, which is still building scale in the food industry.

The achievements of the former chartered accountant were recognised late last year when she was named Telstra Business Woman of the Year in the private and corporate category.

One of the keys to Bellamy’s growth story has been its booming export business into China as well as Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Vietnam and New Zealand.

Bellamy’s Organic products range includes infant formula, cereals, ready-to-eat meals, snacks and toddler milk; and in Australia the products are in 3000 outlets including Coles, Woolworths, Chemist Warehouse, Toys R Us and Big W.

The group now has a 12 per cent share of the local formula and baby food market.

But the international leg of the business now gives it diversity, especially when negotiating with the powerful supermarket chains.

“While they are very big and very powerful, they do give you an opportunity to reach out to the whole of Australia,” McBain says.

“There is an enormous benefit for a brand to access their network. I do have a very big business with Coles and Woolworths. It is very important to us.

“But we wanted to diversify our risk and that is how our whole export program came about. We looked offshore so we could provide ourselves with some balance. And to other Australian companies I would say the same. Don’t look inwards, look outwards.”

McBain, who doesn’t speak Cantonese or Mandarin, says the key to cracking the China market comes down to several simple rules of thumb. “Be very clear on your brand and what your objectives are in China. There are many ways to be distracted,” she says.

“And always be asking questions. It is a difficult place to do business. Reach out to other Aussies in the expat community.

“For example in Shanghai (where Bellamy’s has an office) there are lots of really helpful people. Build a network.”

The Victorian government is partnering with the Australian China Business Council to provide up to $250,000 to deliver regionally tailored export seminars entitled “Doing Business in China” to help SMEs in all parts of regional Victorian seize opportunities to trade with China.

And McBain believes in the goal of Australia becoming a food bowl for China based on the quality and security of our produce. “We have a very unique offer in Australia. We don’t have the pollution problem you have in China and we can guarantee a safe and trustworthy food supply chain.”

Now McBain is looking further afield for expansion opportunities in Vietnam, Malaysia and Korea. Last month she went on a fact-finding mission to Seoul. “We’ve got a really strong brand that mums do connect with,” she says.

“Australia is a great market, our home, but the limitations of the number of children being born here means our opportunity is much smaller compared to other parts of the world.”

McBain joined Bellamy’s as general manager in 2007 but the company — founded by Tasmanian farmer David Bellamy — was battling.

Its turnaround started when a group of eight families formed a company called Tasmania Pure Foods, which has since owned the business. The group was led by Rob Wooley, the chairman of listed agribusiness Tandou.

Since then, TPF has been prepared to put fresh funds into the business on several occasions, especially to built inventory for export markets like China.

“We are very profitable. We certainly were not in the beginning and we had to turn it around. But we are now,” McBain says.

Kate McKenzie, Telstra chief operations officer and Telstra Business Women’s Awards Ambassador, says McBain took over “something broken and built it into something whole and sustainable that is now in the growth markets of Asia”.

She describes her as inquisitive, highly networked, hard-working and inspiring with good leadership and communication skills.

McBain says Bellamy’s is open to pursuing acquisitions, but a sharemarket float is not on the radar for the time being.

“We would certainly look at any businesses that had a good fit for us and where synergies could be gained from us joining forces,” she says.

On the float prospect, she replies: ” Never say never but we are purely focused on the growth at the moment. Who knows what happens in the future.

“It is a hard slog but it is worth every moment of it. To have someone come up to you in the supermarket and say they’ve used our product when their baby had problems and they’ve now been fixed really makes it worth it.”

Victorian Business Editor
Melbourne