Archive for 'Produce Companies'

Turners & Growers Front And Center

T&G logoWell, it is not often that a produce business makes the front page of the National Business Review (28 March 2013 Edition).  As a company listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange, Turners & Growers could reasonably expect to feature in the NBR at some time or other but I am sure that every board member regardless of whether they are based in New Zealand, Germany or Ecuador would prefer making news for all the right reasons…

Turners & Growers have been on shaky grounds since 8 May 1989.  That day heralded a change of Tsunami proportions for the company and the consequences of what happened on that day have either directly or indirectly driven every decision the business has taken since, even if the current crop of directors, with the exception of one, is not aware of what I am talking about.

On 8 May 1989, Progressive Enterprises Ltd, which then operated Foodtown and Three Guys supermarkets, stopped bidding for fruit and vegetables at the Turners & Growers auction and started buying all its domestic produce directly from growers and packhouses.

The key consequences this decision contributed to in the years which followed were these:

  • The auction system collapsed
  • Turners & Growers relocated from the waterfront in downtown Auckland to Mt Wellington
  • The fourth generation Turner family shareholders no longer agreed on the direction of the business and sold out;
  • MG Marketing turned from being a behind the eight ball Wellington/Christchurch based “wannabe” into a very serious nationwide competitor, capable of giving Turners & Growers a run for their money;
  • Other strong competitors emerged in the merchant sector, such as Fresh Direct (ironically owned and operated by Jeffery and Peter Turner following their exit from the family business) and Freshmax;
  • Grower/packers such as NZ Hothouse, AS Wilcox, Meadows and Sutherlands emerged and/or became key direct  suppliers to the supermarkets, thus significantly reducing volume and value of produce moving across merchants’ trading floors.

Where do I get the notion from that this is the way it was?  Well, the guy who walked the Progressive buying team out of their cosy Turners & Growers supplied buying offices back in May 1989 and into its own Produce Distribution Centre was I.

Anyone with access to “One Hundred I’m Bid”, the centennial history of Turners & Growers can check out the board report excerpts dealing with the events of the time…and over the next few weeks, while we wait with baited breath for Mr Hipkins’ successor to emerge, we might just chat a little here about produce industry strategy in general and the role Turners & Growers have played over the years in particular.

Ebony & Ivory Living In Perfect Harmony

allpakTwo empty wooden boxes, which have clearly seen better days, loitering in serene harmony on the pavement outside a street cafe on State Highway 1.  Thousands of cars pass by each day and pay no attention to these remnants from a by-gone era.  Pedestrians deposit rubbish into the black bags encapsulated by these very roughly  nailed together bits of timber.  Could we have seen these boxes on the same spot yesterday?  Probably.  Are they likely to be there again tomorrow?  More than likely.

Are they worth a second thought?  Why is one of them yellow and the other one green?  Why are there faded letters visible on the green one, spelling the word ‘ALPACK’? How old are they? What was there original use?

And by now readers will be asking why SAUERKRAUT is getting so excited about a couple of old wooden boxes he nearly tripped over, rounding the corner in Tirau on a sunny Sunday’s afternoon.  Those blog afficionados with a little history in the produce industry will, just like I did, spot the irony of those two unlikely mates leading a peaceful co-existence.  And if  you are interested in understanding what functions these boxes used to have and what this had to do with the produce industry, please start with having a look at this document.  Written only ten years ago but a life time away.



Lost in Translation – Part 2

Some errors of translation are just that – errors – and the translation effort was done with the best of intentions in the first place.

Some, not so much:

Support the Team

Being of German origin, I do know some soccer teams and Borussia I definitely know about.  So I had to look twice at this long distance supporter to realise that the shirt was a clever rip off.  Admittedly the colour was a big giveaway, but can you see the other, careful error?

That is a “P”, not the “D” that it should be for Dortmund.

A carefully designed, deliberate mistake to get around copyright laws; no good intentions here.  Not the first example of such practices and far from the last – as Zespri well knows.

The Howard Cedric Zingel Motion

I received a letter in the mail from Tony Gibbs today.  Not that I was the only one who was privileged in this way.  Every shareholder of Turners & Growers would have received the same letter.  Yes, you have heard right, Sauerkraut likes to keep his nose close to the wind and therefore invests in produce companies.  Not that you will find my name on the share register – John Key and I both manage our investments through trusts.  There are two significant differences though.  Firstly, John Key has access to a smidgen more capital than Sauerkraut and therefore tends to purchase slightly larger share parcels– and secondly, there is nothing blind about Sauerkraut’s trust!

Bu t I digress.  Anyway, this letter arrived today inviting me to the Turners & Growers AGM.  A couple of proxy forms were also floating around in the envelope and then there was this other letter.  A letter from one Howard Cedric Zingel.  If you now want to know who Howard Cedric Zingel is, you are asking the wrong cabbage head.  A quick Google search reveals that Howard Cedric Zingel lives in Tauranga and seems to be someone who invests in the share market from a position of knowledge, being a longtime member of the NZ Shareowners Association Inc.  So we have to assume Mr. Zingel takes his investing serious.

And serious investor that he is, Mr. Zingel intends to propose a Motion at the 2010 Annual General Meeting of Turners & Growers Ltd on 24 June 2010.  If you are interested in reading the Motion in full, you can satisfy your curiosity here, and if you want to know what Tony Gibbs thinks of the Motion you can check that out here.

The short version goes something like this:

Mr.  Zingel wants Turners & Growers to engage the services of Price Waterhouse Coopers  in order to establish whether shareholder dividends and capital could be maximized if “the growing assets of the Group could be split off and the worth thereof returned to shareholders.”

Alan Gibbs’ letter inviting me to the meeting and advising me that I get to vote on Howard Cedric Zingel’s Motion gets straight to the point.  “The Board,” says Tony Gibbs, “does not support this resolution on the basis that the retention and growing assets is consistent with the long-term strategic objectives of the group.”

So there you have it.  As the Board votes the majority of the stock, Mr Zingel’s Motion will be handsomely defeated.  And this is where this story could stop.
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