Multi-million dollar fruit factory coming to region
THEY turn our region's second grade fruit into premium grade snacks and now, thanks to a $500,000 grant, Gin Gin and Dry will employ an extra 20 locals and treble its production at a new fruit drying facility.
Business owners Cameron and Muppi Dean were thrilled to receive the Coles Nurture Fund, "which means we can kick-start the project earlier than we ever imagined,” Cameron said.
Pending council approval of plans for a state-of-the-art drying facility, they will be able to expand their business five years sooner than they planned.
"It's very exciting,” Cameron said.
"It's something we always wanted to do, and (the grant) is definitely giving us a head start.”
The multi-million dollar preserving facility will create approximately nine local jobs during construction and around 20 full-time jobs once completed.
"We employ eight local residents at our current facility and will be able to double this as soon as the new facility is complete,” Mr Dean said.
"As we increase production over a four-year period, we'll be able to employ even more people which is great for the region.”
The new facility will allow Gin Gin and Dry to keep up with the huge demand for its dried mango, pineapple, banana and kiwifruit and semi-dried tomatoes.
"We definitely need the capacity - at the moment we have customers who are running out of our product,” Mr Dean said.
The expansion will triple its dried mango production and double its semi-dried tomato production.
It will also mean they can experiment with drying new products, including melon, figs and paw paw.
Drying the fruit is a "win-win” solution to the common problem for farmers: what to do with second grade fruit.
"We source produce which growers can't sell because it is blemished or already ripe and unable to travel. This means local growers also get an additional income stream,” Mr Dean said.
"If they can get something out of it instead of dumping it that's great.
"The Wide Bay-Burnett region is a tropical fruit bowl so there is an abundance of produce readily available here. Once we have the capacity, the potential to explore new product avenues is extremely exciting.”
The plant will stand alone a few hundred metres from Gin Gin and Dry's existing headquarters on the Deans' mango farm at McIlwraith.
The couple took over the business in 2009 after the original owners, Rod and Marg Linnett, looked at drying as a way to add value to their mango orchard.
Mr Dean said he and Muppi saw huge potential.
"We've taken it to the next level,” he said.
"It's a growing industry, with more and more people becoming health conscious.”
Gin Gin and Dry runs an online business and supplies health food, organic and whole food retailers and distributors in Australia, as well as China and Japan, the latter being a big consumer of its semi-dried tomatoes.
While they don't currently supply to large supermarkets or chain stores, Mr Dean said, "If we had the capacity, we would consider it.”
Coles Managing Director John Durkan said Gin Gin and Dry was a deserving recipient of the Coles Nurture Fund.
"Consumers are interested in hearing more about where their food comes from and how it is produced. As a result, we've certainly seen increased demand for natural, healthy food options,” he said.
"Gin Gin and Dry produces great quality products with an extremely innovative business model, so we're thrilled to offer them a Coles Nurture Fund grant to grow their business.”
If the plans are approved by Bundaberg Regional Council, Gin Gin and Dry plans to build the facility before the end of 2017.
Mr Dean said so far, the response from the council and the community had been positive.
The facility will use new drying machinery to make the current production process more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, and computer technology will be installed to monitor products as they dry, reducing the need for manual monitoring.