At a high level, we need to feed society and the availability of food is important. However, not all food is created equally, given the growing call to minimise implications for the environment and society at large from food production.
It’s not only thermal power station and the prevalence of gas guzzling cars when it comes to carbon emissions. The consumption of food is also an important contributor to emissions.
Longtable Group (ASX:LON) supplies food that has a low carbon footprint and positively impacts health outcomes. Longtable owns the South Australian based biodynamic dairy business, B.-d. Farm Paris Creek (“Paris Creek”), as well as Melbourne’s Fitzroy-based dairy business, St David Dairy (“St David”). Longtable also has a 48% interest in Maggie Beer Products (“Maggie Beer”).
You may be wondering – what is biodynamic farming? Biodynamic farming essentially takes additional steps beyond organic farming. Both organic farming and biodynamic farming remove the use of synthetic chemicals and artificial fertilisers in the farming process. However, biodynamic farming builds on the features of organic farming, ensuring the farm is more self-reliant and self-sustaining. Specifically, external inputs are not used, being substituted by activities such as composting and growing crops that naturally fertilise. The focus on the self-generation of the farm, in addition to the removal of artificial fertilisers, means the farming system has a lower carbon footprint. Self-sustenance of the farm also yields superior soil health and, by implication, sees this method of farming producing food that is of higher nutritional value. Longtable has exposure to the production, manufacturing and marketing of biodynamic dairy products through its holding, Paris Creek.
We view Longtable as an industry leader. They have caught the interest of mainstream supermarkets with Paris Creek products whilst leading non-biodynamic farmers to convert to this type of farming. In recent times, the company has updated the branding of Paris Creek products and rolled them out nationally. I have been impressed by the company recently announcing its success in having Woolworths range the Paris Creek premium cheese products nationally in 170 premium format Woolworths stores. Overall, the recent expansion of the business has increased the supply and appeal of these products.
Longtable acquired the St. David Dairy business earlier this year. St David predominantly services premium cafes, restaurants, speciality retailers, catering companies and function venues in Melbourne. St. David is consistently well-received by baristas, who prefer to work with the milk and refer it to new cafes as they change workplaces. Moreover, it is sustainable as the majority of the fresh milk is currently sourced from a single farm in Gippsland that focuses on low intensity and sustainable farming practices. With Paris Creek already being in Longtable’s portfolio, Longtable can channel milk produced from farms converting to biodynamic practices into the St. David business.
Having visited the facility in Fitzroy in early November 2018, along with nearby cafes that are loyal customers of St. David, I could clearly see the stickiness of St. David customer base. I also saw that the business had introduced the ability to re-fill milk bottles for its customers and that the facility’s noise pollution was minimal. This experience also strengthened my conviction in its expansion into Sydney.
Marni Lysaght visiting St. David Dairy, Fitzroy, November 2018
Our final thoughts
Longtable is disparate to the many other participants in the food and beverage industry who remain stagnant in the face of growing calls for lower carbon emissions. With further growth to be had, it is evident that society at large will benefit from greater access to Longtable’s products and Longtable leading the expansion of biodynamic dairy farming in Australia.
This is the view of the author, Marni Lysaght, Equity Analyst. The output of her research and analysis can be found in the soon to be launched eInvest Future Impact Small Caps fund.
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