A transformation success story – Craig Mostyn

From the brink of breaching environmental standards to a leading diversified food and agribusiness company – CEO David Lock talks about transforming the Craig Mostyn Group, securing a supply chain and tapping into consumer preferences.

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In 2004, when David Lock became Chief Executive Officer, the Craig Mostyn Group was a loosely-knit network of 18 business units operating with varying degrees of success. He spent five years restructuring them down to three.

Today, Craig Mostyn is one of Australia’s leading diversified food and agribusiness companies. Comprising Talloman, Linley Valley Pork and Craig Mostyn Foods, the group produces fresh pork, seafood, protein meal, tallow, cooking oils and fruit products for distribution to food service, retail and wholesale clients in Australia and overseas.

Back then, the Talloman rendering plant presented Lock with one of his first and toughest challenges.

“It was on the brink of breaching environmental standards,” he says. “The prevailing attitude was that, when you’re dealing with a waste product, it’s going to smell – so tough luck neighbours! We had to decide quickly whether we were prepared to put in the hard work needed to work through the environmental issues or just walk away. I believed it was worthy of investment but that, if we wanted to be there for the long term, we’d have to match world’s best practice.”

Lock and his team traveled the world sourcing the technology and processes that enabled some overseas plants to operate in urban environments. Today, Talloman’s state-of-the art facilities recycle animal waste material from around Western Australia into feed, energy and oleochemicals.

As the rendering business was being transformed, Linley Valley Pork was developing into Western Australia’s largest supplier of fresh pork to both domestic and export markets – though Lock initially had no plans to farm pigs.

“I thought we’d stick with processing and selling fresh meat into various markets,” he says. “Then I found that we couldn’t secure a reliable supply chain – profits vary widely in pork production and it’s easy for farmers to be in pigs one year and out the next. It was impossible for us to build market relationships unless we went into farming ourselves.”

They started small by buying up existing farms. Some were free range and, in response to growing consumer concern for animal welfare, they began focusing on this aspect of the business. Working with clients, and Coles in particular, they considered what consumers were looking for and what was possible in terms of production. Their free range brand was the first farm in Australia to obtain ‘Paws’ certification from the RSPCA.

Overseas, there tends to be more interest in what the animals are fed and their veterinary care. “In Singapore, for example, they prefer them to be treated with probiotics rather than antibiotics,” says Lock. “Australian consumers are less concerned with that.”

Lock, who was named Agribusiness Leader of the Year at the 2012 NAB Agribusiness Awards for Excellence, considers himself lucky to be working in the sector.

“My background is finance, but I never wanted to be stuck in an office all day,” he says. “I’ve always had an interest in agriculture and I love being able to visit farms and spend time with people who are very down to earth and pleasant to be around.”

Find out more about the Craig Mostyn Group.