Growing a Gippsland ‘Flavorite’

Chris and Ed Millis from Flavorite pre Covid restrictions.

By Mitchell Clarke

Family owned fruit and vegetable producer Flavorite is familiar with growing tomatoes, but business will be the next thing to grow, after the company was named the first to benefit from a landmark investment.

The Warragul company – which is the state’s largest grower of hydroponic tomatoes – will expand their business under a new partnership, as part of the $250 million Victorian Business Growth Fund (VBGF).

The VBGF was established by the State Government and First State Super and will operate for 10 years to address the barriers faced by small and medium enterprises, ready to grow their business.

Treasurer Tim Pallas said the investment would help drive high-skilled jobs in priority areas of the economy, as well as providing jobs for unemployed people, apprentices or people attempting to reskill.

“This landmark investment will back one of Gippsland’s proud agribusiness companies and create more local jobs,” Mr Pallas said.

Eastern Victoria MP Harriet Shing said the fund would also help the company expand to meet the growing demand for their product.

“Flavorite is a true Gippsland success story and has revolutionised the tomato business in Australia,” Ms Shing said.

“For many years, Flavorite has not only provided world-class tomatoes and capsicums to a growing market, but this family company has also helped to train and up-skill hundreds of local workers and drive employment growth from West Gippsland through to the Latrobe Valley.

“This equity partnership will not only continue Flavorite’s momentum and positive impact in our region, but it will also enable the company to expand its product lines and processing capability to other parts of the state.”

The partnership follows the company’s own announcement that they would merge three entities – Flavorite Hydoponic Tomatoes, Flavourwave and Flavorite Marketing – to become the Flavorite Group.

Flavorite Group CEO Mike Nichol said the merger would enable the three successful businesses to join force and create a “consolidated powerhouse”.

The family owned company has seen significant growth since Warren Nichol and Mark Millis began the business in 1988.

“By streamlining the way we operate and interact internally and externally, we will be able to respond quickly to the market, our customers and new opportunities,” Mr Nichol said.

Under the Victorian Business Growth Fund, the Flavorite Group will partner with the State Government’s independent fund manager, Roc Partners, to expand the business.

“We have worked up an exciting partnership with the Flavorite Group,” Roc Partners managing partner Michael Lukin said.

“They were pioneers in the protected cropping industry in Australia and have a proven record of innovation and first-in-market experience.”

Mr Lukin added that the company’s vertically integrated structure and strong management team made them an “ideal platform business” to further grow and diversify within the produce industry.

All investment decisions will be made by Roc Partners based on a commercial assessment about the potential growth and return profile for the business, governed by an investment mandate agreed by the State Government and First State Super.

The State Government will have no involvement in investment decisions.