There are just a handful of countries that own most of the dairy product brands in Australia: Japan, France, Italy, Canada and Australia. Other foreign countries which own major dairy product brands include the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, the Netherlands, the United States and New Zealand. Below is an in-depth look at who owns the brands in our fridges. I have created a useful infographic below so that you can easily see which country owns which brands. For further explanations of who owns what brand please see below.
Please keep in mind that who owns what brand can be complicated, especially if the brands are international and different companies own the brand in different countries or there are licencing arrangements in place. Errors may be present.
All the Japanese-owned brands are owned by Lion who is in turn owned by Kirin Holdings Company Limited. Kirin is traded on the Tokyo stock exchange and is part if the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group keiretsu. The current iteration of Lion was formed through a process of various complex mergers and acquisitions. Originally there were two companies, National Foods and Lion Nathan who in turn had also acquired many companies.
National Foods was formed by Adelaide Steamship Group, a major conglomerate which collapsed spectacularly in the early 1990s due to a debt fuelled acquisition binge. By 2005 when Pilipino company San Miguel merged its Berri Limited subsidiary with National Foods, the company had acquired many major dairy brands such as Big M, Farmers Union and the licence to the Yoplait brand in Australia. The merger with Berri Limited brought many juice brands into National Foods portfolio, including Berri, Daily Juice and Just Juice. In 2007, San Miguel Corporation sold National Foods to Kirin Holdings Company Limited. In 2009, Lion Nathan, primarily an alcoholic beverage brewer, was purchased by Kirin Holdings and was merged with National Foods to form Lion Nathan National Foods, now known as Lion.
Kirin has recently indicated their intention to sell their Australian Dairy and Drink business. At the time of writing they have been unable to find a buyer.
The dairy brands owned by Lion are:
- Farmers Union
- Dairy Farmers
- Divine Classic Crème Caramel
- The Complete Dairy
- South Cape
- Tasmanian Heritage
- King Island Dairy
- Mersey Valley
- Feel Good
- Big M
The Yoplait brand is owned by a joint venture between U.S food giant General Mills and Sodiaal, a French diary co-operative. Yoplait is listed in the infographic as being owned by a Japanese company as Lion owns the Australian licence to the Yoplait brand.
Canada’s claim to Australian dairy brands comes through the Canadian dairy giant Saputo. Saputo gained a large foothold in the Australian market when it acquired Warrnambool Cheese & Butter and Australian dairy co-op Murray Goulburn. Saputo is now one of Australia’s top dairy processors, emphasised by the fact it had to divest its Koroit processing facility in Western Victoria by the ACCC to increase competition for milk in the region. The facility was purchase by Australian owned Bega Cheese.
The dairy brands owned by Saputo are:
- Cracker Barrel
- Great Ocean Road
- Warrnambool Cheese & Butter
- Warrnambool Heritage Cheddars
France and Italy
French and Italian companies lay claim to some of the most well-known dairy brands in Australia. France and Italy are dealt with together because Parmalat S.p.A is controlled and majority owned by French multinational Lactalis and is traded on the Italian Stock Exchange.
Brands owned by Parmalat are:
- Real Coffee Ice Break
- Farmhouse Gold
- Harvey Fresh
- Rush Iced Coffee
Parmalat Australia used to have a page listing its Calci Yum branded products, but they appear to have been removed. Parmalat may no longer own the brand. If this is the case then New Zealand company Fonterra, via its Anchor subsidiary, would most likely own the brand as they own the brand in New Zealand. Regardless, I listed the Calci Yum brand under France/Italy.
French food giant Danone also owns major brands such as:
- Danone YoPro
- Danone Activia
French multinational cheese maker Le Groupe Bel owns the The Laughing Cow and Babybel brands.
Switzerland and the United Kingdom
Switzerland and the United Kingdom own some of Australia’s most well-known ice cream brands. Swiss food giant Nestle and the United Kingdom’s R&R Ice Cream, the second largest ice cream maker in the world, created a joint venture called Froneri, which owns the two company’s ice cream brands in Australia and other countries. These brands include Peters, Drumstick and Cadbury Ice Cream. Note that Mondelez owns Cadbury chocolate, Froneri only owns the ice cream making rights. Nestle also owns the Dreyer’s, Movenpick and Haagen-Dazs branded ice creams. It is unclear whether these ice creams are manufactured by the Froneri joint venture so they have been included under Switzerland.
UK consumer goods company PZ Cussons owns the five:am brand of yoghurt. This was purchased from Australian entrepreneur David Prior.
Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever owns many of Australia’s much-loved ice cream brands. This is hardly surprising as Unilever is the world’s largest ice cream maker. Unilever owns brands such as:
- Ben & Jerry’s
Norway does not have a large presence within Australian dairy brands. TINE SA, Norway’s largest dairy product co-operative, owns the Jarlsberg brand of cheese.
The U.S owns a small slice of the dairy brands pie primarily through yoghurt maker Chobani and confectionary maker Mondelez International Inc.
Chobani owns the Chobani and Gippsland Dairy brands of yoghurt. Mondelez owns the Dairylea, and Philadelphia brands of cheese.
New Zealand owns several familiar dairy brands in Australia through some of its diary co-operatives. The largest of which is Fonterra who is responsible for approximately 30% of the world’s dairy exports. The dairy brands owned by Fonterra are:
- Perfect Italiano
- Western Star
The EasiYo brand of ‘make your own’ yoghurt is owned by the Westland Co-operative Dairy Company Limited in New Zealand.
Most of the Australian brands are dominated by small local manufacturers which is why you may not have heard of many of the brands in the infographic. I will discuss the larger well-known brands below.
Bega Cheese, an ASX listed company, owns the Bega and Tatura brand of dairy products. Bega has a large business to business operation which sells cheddar, processed, mozzarella and cream cheeses, milk powders, infant formula to local and international businesses. This includes manufacturing cheese for Coles private label brand. Bega, formerly a dairy co-operative, listed on the ASX in 2011 to raise capital. Since then it has expanded substantially and is a major company within the Australian dairy sector.
The a2 Milk Company, an ASX listed company, owns the a2 Milk brand.
Freedom Food Ltd, an ASX listed company owns the Australia’s Own brand of milk products.
Up & Go and So Natural is owned by Sanitarium which in turn is wholly-owned by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. It is unknown whether it is the American, New Zealand or Australian branch of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church which owns Sanitarium, although it is believed the Australian branch of the Church owns the Australian arm of Sanitarium.
Bulla Family Dairy, an Australian owned dairy company, owns the Bulla brand of cream and other dairy products.
Jalna Dairy Foods, an Australian family owned company, owns the Jalna brand of yoghurt.
The Queensland Yoghurt company, another family business, owns the Queensland Yoghurt brand.
Barista Bros. Coffee is owned by Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd, an ASX listed company.
And there you have it! While I am sure I missed out on some brands, this should be a relatively comprehensive overview of which foreign countries own the milk, yoghurt and cheese brands in Australia.