Rosella’s receiver seeks a buyer amid closure fears

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 4th December 2012

Iconic Australian tomato-sauce brand Rosella and other well-known food brands in the Gourmet Food Holdings – Pitango – Waterwheel corporate group have been placed into receivership.

Ferrier Hodgson partners have been appointed receivers of the company after it entered voluntary administration on Friday, following an estimated $50 million debt with the National Australia bank.

An expressions-of-interest campaign has been launched by Ferrier Hodgson in the past 48 hours to identify potential buyers for the group or its individual businesses.

The 100-year-old Rosella brand is well-known for its tomato-sauce, as well as soups, chutneys and relishes. Other Gourmet Food Holdings brands include Aristrocrat pickled onions and cucumbers, Blue Banner pickled onions, Galiko crushed garlic, Stromboli pasta sauce and The Curry Makers Indian curry sauces.

Waterwheel brands include a range of Waterthins crackers and crispbreads.

The New-Zealand based Pitango company has a range of organic, ready-made soups, pastas and risottos.

Ferrier Hodgson partner Steve Sherman said that it was yet to be determined whether operations could be continued.

“The receivers will be undertaking an urgent assessment of the financial position of the group. We will be engaging in discussions with key stakeholders including employees, customers and suppliers,” Mr Sherman said.

Around 250 jobs at the Gourmet Food Holdings factories in Sydney and Dandenong are under threat just before Christmas, as well as those involved with the Waterwheel and Pitango companies. Ferrier Hodgson said they will “do whatever they can to preserve jobs.”

Australian vegetable growers industry body AUSVEG said that the news of the Rosella receivership could have “large ramifications” on the “already struggling” Australian food production sector.

“The past 18 months have seen the collapse or closure of a number of prominent vegetable growing and processing operations in Australia and we hope that this fate can be avoided with Rosella,” AUSVEG spokesperson Hugh Gurney said.

Earlier this year, United States-owned tomato sauce competitor Heinz closed its Victorian tomato sauce factory. Since Heinz’s closure in January, a string of well-known Australian food brands have gone into receivership including ANZAC biscuits in March 2012, and Darrel Lea in July 2012.