In Episode 14, “The Culture of Innovation and Embracing Change”, Blenheim Partners’ Gregory Robinson is delighted to talk to Barry Irvin AM, Executive Chairman of Bega Cheese Limited.

Barry’s story is inspiring. To say Barry has faced challenges is an understatement. In this very personal and illuminating discussion, Barry shares with us the human side of an ASX Chairman and how culture and innovation come from all parts of life and are not what is necessarily found in the business textbook or hung as the company mantra on the office walls.

Through curiosity, hard work and as a result of difficult personal circumstances he found himself getting better acquainted with the Bega dairy Co-Op and soon realised it may be the avenue for his business career. Within a short period of time Barry became Chairman of Bega Cheese, and through his outstanding leadership has taken an organisation in very difficult circumstances, through a transformational journey that has seen it cemented as a powerhouse in the dairy industry where it holds 15% of the Australian retail cheese market exported to over 40 countries.

Barry shares insights into his first day as leader of Bega Cheese and his first strategy meeting knowing that the competitors were circling saying “the competitive advantage we have is that we have no competitive advantage. Everybody will underestimate us. We will be on everybody’s list to disappear”. Barry’s passion and willingness to take calculated risk comes through as does his ability to share his dream with competitors and question the status quo.

In 2017 Bega announced a $460 million deal with Mondelez International to acquire most of their grocery and cheese business in Australia and New Zealand which included the iconic Australian product Vegemite as well as the license to manufacture Kraft branded cheese and peanut butter. These acquisitions add over $310 million in annual revenue and has moved Bega Cheese from a dairy-based company to a diversified consumer goods company.

Today Barry is a central figure in the Australian Dairy and consumer goods industry and is not sitting back but wants to take on the global markets with Australian ingenuity and smarts.

Barry has also played a key role in the development of Giant Steps, the charity that seeks to provide support to families, to improve understanding of autism in the wider community and to develop best practice among carers and professionals.

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