Frucor brings jobs back from Australia

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Frucor staff in front of the new equipment installed at the Manukau plant.
Frucor staff in front of the new equipment installed at the Manukau plant.

Frucor Beverages, which bottles drinks such as Gatorade, V, Just Juice, and Pepsi, has shifted manufacturing work back from Australia and created 20 new local jobs.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday opened Frucor's new high-speed bottling line and distribution centre, which sit 500 metres apart in Manukau.

Twenty new people have been hired to run the new bottling system and at least 10 more will be hired in the next few years.

Frucor expects to ramp up production from 12 million cases in 2011 to 19 million in 2014, and grow export volumes to Australia from 2,700 to 3,300 20-foot containers per year.

Although the company already has about 700 staff in New Zealand, it has also been using contract manufacturers for its production in Australia.

Chief executive Mark Callaghan said he felt "quite comfortable" about the decision to cut many of those jobs across the Tasman and bring that work home.

"We're bringing jobs back from oversees and investing in productive infrastructure which is a win-win for the local community and our business," he said.

Frucor is a New Zealand-headquartered business, which meant Kiwis were calling the shots, he said.

"If we were an Australian business, I don't know if it would be the same decision."

Frucor employs close to 500 people in Manukau and the new facilities are an expansion of that site. It also employs 200 people in Christchurch and another 40 in Napier.

Parent company Suntory Beverage & Food listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in July, raising almost US$4 billion.

Callaghan said Frucor was getting "a fair share of that" and the investment was a vote of confidence from Suntory.

About $45 million is being invested into innovation and technology over the next five years and a further $6 million into a new research and development hub in Manukau.

"Our new R&D facility will help Frucor continue to export our own brand of Kiwi innovation and products to the world," Callaghan said.

The new bottling system will allow the company to produce 400 bottles per minute.

Over the road, the large distribution centre has a robot-driven semi-automated racking system, which means cases of bottles can be moved around largely without forklifts.

Most of Frucor's products are exported to Australia but the company also ships to 10 other countries and supplies the Kiwi market.

Frucor's brands include V, H2Go, Just Juice, Fresh Up, Simply Squeezed, Frank. It also distributes Pepsi products in New Zealand, including Gatorade.

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