Dick Smith’s long-term fight against multi-national dominance of Australia’s grocery industry has suffered a setback now that Swiss giant Nestle is buying and carving up one of his largest suppliers, Green’s Foods.

Green’s Foods is now a listed company controlled by Sir Ron Brierley’s GPG with 37%, the listed venture capital firm CVC with 14% and Dick Pratt with 9%.

However, you still see Green’s Foods trucks on the roads proudly declaring themselves to be a quality family owned business, when the Green family actually sold out several years ago.

The major shareholders have solicited a $100 million takeover from Nestle which will hang on to the strong pet food business and on-sell the consumer foods division to GPG and CVC.

Dick Smith is yet to comment on the takeover, which is a little surprising given the strong views expressed on his website about other foreign food takeovers.

The 200-page scheme booklet explains the terms but it is clear that Nestle’s $2.4 billion a year Australian business continues to grow.

Nestle is a powerhouse with 250,000 employees and annual net profit of almost $9 billion but it is also the most boycotted company in the world thanks to its appalling record pushing powdered baby milk in third world countries and ripping off coffee growers across the globe, just to name a couple of its indiscretions.

Anita Roddick was surprised at the anger when she sold The Body Shop to L’Oreal, which is 24.6% owned by Nestle, for $1.5 billion last March.

Harry Wallace, who drives the AusBuy campaign, will clearly have to update his website too, given it currently includes the following on Green’s Foods:

Today, Green’s Foods’ brand portfolio includes Green’s, Supercoat and Poppin which are found in supermarkets right across Australia. The Company also manufactures and distributes a number of Dick Smith branded products, including Peanut Butter, under licence. The Company also exports to many countries in the Asia Pacific region, but in particular to Japan and New Zealand, and most notably in the Pet Food category.

It will be interesting to see if the relationship with Dick Smith prevails after the takeover.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey