Old Boy beverage entrepreneurs have done it again

As published in the Sydney Morning Herald (and syndicated widely) on 10 May 2016.  Written by Sue Mitchell.

Nutrient Water and Cocobella maker MADE to ship bottled milk to Asia

A beverage company founded 10 years ago by a group of Melbourne school mates is leaving multinational rivals in its wake.

MADE, founded in 2005 by former Brighton Grammar mates Matthew Dennis, Luke Marget and Brad Wilson, was the first Australian company to launch vitamin-infused bottled water, coconut water, high-protein breakfast drinks and cold-pressed juices with extended shelf life – beating larger rivals such as Coca-Cola Amatil, Lion’s Berri Juice Co and Asahi’s Schweppes to market by several years.

Now MADE has scored another coup, becoming the first Australian company to ship fresh PET-bottled milk to Asia by sea rather than expensive refrigerated airfreight. The first monthly shipment of 200,000 litres commences in June.

MADE is also preparing to export its high-protein Rokeby Farms breakfast smoothie to Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan this year and is investigating opportunities to sell other products in its portfolio, including Impressed cold-pressed juices, to Asia and the Middle East.

Co-founders Luke Marget and Matthew Dennis said the company’s focus on developing innovative new products underpinned by state of the art manufacturing processes and a national distribution network serving 15,000 customers, including Coles and Woolworths, is starting to pay off.

MADE has invested more than $20 million into ultra-clean processing technology that extends the shelf life of fresh milk and cold-pressed juice from around 30 days to 100 days whilst retaining nutritional benefits, taste and mouth-feel.

“The extended fresh shelf life capability is unique,” said Mr Dennis. “Most people have 30 days, we have 100 days, so that really opens the door to new opportunities.”

“You can put it in an ocean container and still have good shelf life in those markets.”

The company identifies niche food and beverage categories that have potential to become mainstream and develops processing techniques that enable it to sell premium products at affordable prices.

For example, Impressed juices are cold-filled then put under high pressure to deactivate bacteria without using traditional heat-pasteurisation.

“We have to be nimble and ahead of the trends and do lots of different things so we can move to market quicker,” said Mr Marget. 

“Since we started 10 years ago products that are better for you and functional foods have become even more popular.

“So far we’ve been focused on succeeding in Australia. Now the business is resourced to launch into Asia – that’s going to be a big focus for us.”

Exports are forecast to generate 10 per cent of sales by the end of 2017 and 20 per cent by 2018. “We think that’s achievable given the interest we’ve had,” said Mr Marget.

MADE revenues have grown 50 per cent a year for the past three years to $65 million and its portfolio of four brands – Nutrient Water, Cocobella, Rokeby Farms and Impressed – generate retail sales of $120 million.

That is small beer compared with Coca-Cola Amatil and Lion, which boast annual revenues around $5 billion, but it is more than a mouthful for Mr Marget, Mr Dennis and Mr Wilson, who each own 28 per cent of the company. Their parents, who helped out with early funding, own the balance.

After spurning offers to sell, the trio are now looking for outside investors or partners who can help with national and international distribution.

“We have had numerous offers but we’re very committed to the business and investing for the long term,” said Mr Dennis

Two old boys in their milk factory

Luke Marget  and Matthew Dennis, both from the Class of  1995, in their beverage factory.