This week Down Under

Unilever acquires Aussie ice cream icon

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Unilever acquires Aussie ice cream icon
Weis, one of Australia’s best-loved frozen bar manufacturers, has been snapped up by Unilever to bolster its ice cream range.

The multinational said it had entered into a definitive deal with the Queensland icon, and promised that manufacturing would continue at the company’s Toowoomba site. Terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed.

Founded in 1957, family-owned Weis is best known for its pineapple, bananas and passionfruit Fruito ice cream bar, its first launch.

Fruito still features in a range of bars, dairy-free sorbet and frozen yogurt that are made using locally sourced natural ingredients. 

Unilever’s regional chief executive, Clive Stiff, said the company was also committed to maintaining Weis’s production methods.

We are delighted to bring Weis’s exciting and delicious range into our portfolio, adding another Australian favourite to our leading ice cream range​,” he added.

Weis will join streets Streets, another iconic brand launched by Ted Street in the 1920s, in Unilever’s “strategically important​” Australian ice cream portfolio.

Our family made this decision because Unilever demonstrated their understanding of our brand, our products and how important our people and the Toowoomba manufacturing site are in ensuring Weis’s success into the future​,” managing director Julie Weis said. 

Unilever’s scale will enable greater market access and growth that will provide opportunities for our extended Weis family of staff, suppliers, customers and of course our wonderful consumers​.”

Founder Les Weis said he and his wife Val were looking forward to witnessing the evolution of the company.

Val has always said to me ‘Business is like a wheelbarrow: it doesn’t go anywhere unless someone pushes it’, and I think Unilever will give Weis just the push it needs​,” he said.

More from Down Under…

Arnott’s ends relocation rumours at opening of A$22m packaging plant

Australian bakery major Arnott’s opened a A$22m (US$17.5m) packaging plant in its traditional heartland of Sydney’s western suburbs.

Arnott's

The Huntingwood factory, which was formally opened by New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian, will focus on sustainable packaging.

As a result of this investment, Arnott’s has moved our popular snack-pack products into cardboard box outers which are better for the environment, protect the biscuits more effectively, sit more neatly in Aussie pantries and are easier to navigate on shelf for our shoppers​,” said Ümit Subasi, Asia-Pacific president of the Campbell Soup Company-owned brand.

The facility opened amid rumours that Arnott’s, Australia’s biggest biscuit maker, might relocate production from the area to cut costs. 

At a recent forum, an Arnott’s vice-president had voiced concerns that the neighbouring manufacturing facility had seen a 20-30% increase in utility bills, though doubts were quickly scotched by the premier.

Arnott’s major investment ensures some of its most iconic products will be made in Western Sydney well into the future​,” Berejiklian said. 

Subasi also tipped manufacturing to grow in the area, especially after the opening of the new packaging plant.

We proudly employ over 2,200 Australians, 529 who work here at Huntingwood, and more than 99% of our products are baked in Australia using majority-Australian ingredients​.

The new Multi-Pack Centre will support further innovation in the products we develop for Australian consumers​,” Subasi added. 

This investment is part of a A$40m initiative by Arnotts to support capacity at its Sydney and Brisbane bakeries.

Fsanz calls for submissions for GM rice variety

The antipodean food regulator is consulting the public on an application to allow a genetically modified rice line for human consumption.

Golden rice

The so-called golden rice, developed by the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (Irri), produces a form of provitamin A.

Fsanz chief executive Mark Booth said the regulator had conducted a “thorough​” safety assessment and determined that it did not pose any public heath concerns.

It would be grown in developing countries to address severe vitamin deficiencies that could lead to blindness and stunting, meaning the application was only needed on the off-chance of contamination.

Booth said: “Irri are applying for permission to include it in the Food Standards Code to prevent any trade issues, in that event small amounts of the rice inadvertently end up in shipments of other rice imported into Australia​.” 

Fsanz’s safety assessment included a dietary intake study “conservatively modelled​” on an artificial situation in which all rice eaten in Australia was golden rice. 

We concluded that this may result in a 2-13% increase in estimated intake of β-carotene—equivalent to the amount of β-carotene from approximately 1 teaspoon or less of carrot juice​,” Booth said. 

The call for submissions closes on September 14. 

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