Jindi Cheese goes from farmhouse to $20 million sale to French dairy giant

What started out as a farmhouse cheese-making business in Gippsland has now been sold to the biggest dairy group in the world, Lactalis, in a deal estimated to be worth $20 million.

Jindi was founded in 1985 by the Ronald family before being acquired in 2005 by its distribution company, Menora Foods, which has now sold the business.

Menora is also a family-owned business. Second generation part-owner and assistant managing director Sam Schachna told SmartCompany Jindi’s growth has been an “amazing journey”.

“We took Jindi to the national supermarkets and bought it from the founding family. We then built a state of the art, new factory in Gippsland and from that point we brought on internationally regarded cheese-maker Franck Beaurain as group executive manager,” Schachna says.

Menora expanded Jindi’s product range to include brie, washed rind and blue cheeses, culminating in the Australian Grand Dairy Awards yesterday when Jindi took out awards for champion white, champion blue and champion washed rind cheeses.

Schachna says Menora decided to sell Jindi after a strategic review of its business.

“Menora is entering a new phase of growth. I’m the second generation leading the business and following from a strategic review our concentration is now remaining on our core FMCG [fast moving consumer goods], sales, marketing and distribution,” he says.

Schachna would not disclose the price Lactalis paid or the process used to find a buyer, but The Australian Financial Review reports sources which estimate the sale at $20 million.

“We looked for someone who shared our passion for cheese-making and had skills and resources to take Jindi to the next level,” Schachna says.

“For us, it’s a matter of what is best for Jindi and the sale of it to Lactalis is a unique opportunity for the two businesses to come together,” he says.

“It will take Jindi to the next level and take it abroad, it is a fantastic thing for the local region and all the staff will be offered ongoing positions.”

Jindi employs around 100 staff in Gippsland and Lactalis will retain the staff along with Beaurain.

The acquisition by Lactalis follows its 3.4 billion euro deal ($4.2 billion) last year to acquire a majority of Italian dairy company Parmalat; while, in Australia, the dairy giant already owns the Pauls milk brand, Vaalia yoghurt brand and flavoured milk brands Oak, Breaka and Rush.

Menora – which distributes Bon Maman jams, Maille mustard, Chobani yoghurt, and Wattle Valley cheeses and dips amongst other products – will continue to distribute Jindi across its national independent network.

“We are going on a new phase of growth and undertaking succession planning,” Schachna says.



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