Banking services help an F&B business grow

Directus is a leading supplier of processed fruit and vegetable ingredients and speciality ingredients to food and beverage (F&B) companies in the Australasian region. Their clients include impressive names such as Coca-Cola Amatil, Lion and Asahi Beverages. But they provide business-to-business (B2B) ingredients to a diverse portfolio. With a strong focus on innovation, product development and capability enablers, Directus has carved out a name for itself in the industry.

The company is a family business and was founded in New Zealand by Tony Beattie in 1976. Directus Australian operations began with the company importing fruit juice concentrates into Australia from the US in 1984. From the beginning, Beattie has travelled extensively to find products that could not be sourced locally, or products that were in short supply, and marketed these successfully to Australian and New Zealand F&B businesses. This business formula worked, and the company has since expanded to growing operations in the US and Southeast Asia and recently added Directus Equipment Services, dedicated for supply, service and spare parts for a number of specialised principle partners in the food and beverage equipment supply.

An organic evolution
Peter Gates, the CEO of the Directus Group, says these business fundamentals – which are built on bringing suppliers and customers in the F&B industry together for their product and service requirements – have set the company apart from other companies in the sector.

“Directus is always looking for ways to add value. With today’s globalisation it is very easy for companies to source ingredients, but there are special skills required to provide that competitive advantage,” he explained. “Security of supply for brand owners is an important measure alongside quality and price. Directus can ensure ethical sourcing from reputable suppliers and with a consolidated purchasing model we can ensure our customers can obtain products from our local stock holdings.”

The company has also evolved with the F&B industry, gauging the needs of their customers and the market in general. A part of this growth has included the supply of organic ingredients.

“Directus is organic certified and can supply a full range of organic ingredients. We have aligned with world-class suppliers; always leaders in their fields. For example, Doehler is one supplier we are partnered with and they are a recognised leader in specialty ingredient and natural colours and flavours,” Gates said.

In the last few years, Directus has enjoyed a growth spurt. While this has occurred as a result of their diverse product offerings and an increased number of customers, Gates also attributes part of this success to their relationship with St. George Bank.

“With our increasing customer base and product offerings comes higher local inventory hence our enhanced facility with St.George Bank,” said Gates. “Our business is different in that there is a lot of foreign currency and exchange involved and we are a unique B2B supplier – so quite a bit different to other F&B manufacturers or retailers,” explained Gates.

Personalised business service
In his experience at Directus, Gates said that St.George Bank has gone out of its way to understand the business, which has been a real point of difference when it comes to the services they provide.

This has been a particular focus of the bank since they adopted an industry-alignment model several years ago. As part of this change, a F&B portfolio was created. This allows for customers such as Directus to benefit from a team of managers who have in-depth knowledge of their industry and the specific issues that they face within this sector. It entails a more personalised approach to the customer’s needs. As a result of the industry-alignment model, the bank won the “Best Service Business Bank” at the Australian Banking and Finance Business Banking Awards in 2016.

As far as Gates is concerned, this personalised approach and the relationship his company has with St.George Bank has been really beneficial to business.

“We have regular catch up sessions, where we provide our financials, but they also want to understand what aspects of the business can improve the cash flow or might need funding. They really want to get in and understand the whole process of how we contract with an overseas supplier, how we bring in a specific ingredient, store it and deliver it. This is one of the key things we’ve enjoyed in our relationship with St.George Bank and one that we feel is unique.”

Banking on growth
In terms of growth, Gates said the business has definitely profited from St.George Bank’s services, such as Invoice Discounting.

Invoice Discounting provides instant cash flow, allowing a business to borrow money that is tied up in outstanding invoices. It empowers businesses by giving them control over working capital and is an excellent way of funding business growth.

“This product has really worked for us as we’ve been growing so quickly,” Gates explained. “St.George Bank has good systems in place. They’re robust but malleable at the same time. They’ve really helped us maximise this facility.”

Other banking products that Gates said are integral to Directus include trade finance and foreign exchange. “Trade finance is really key to our business, as is our foreign exchange cover. They are probably the key products we use besides the invoice discounting. And St.George Bank provide all of these products and services to us, so there is no need for additional consultants,” Gates said. “It certainly makes our work easier, being able to get all of these services from the one bank.”

Approachable and dedicated
Besides the banking products that St.George Bank offer, Gates says the relationship itself is unique between Directus and their dedicated relationship director.

“It’s a formal relationship when it needs to be but can also be quite informal – in terms of being able to regularly touch base and discuss different aspects of the business or bounce ideas off of each other.”

Having a banker who is focused wholly on the F&B sector makes a difference and Gates says that Directus benefits from said much more than they would from traditional banking services.

As part of their unique product and service offerings, St.George Bank provides “industry business snapshots” which give businesses like Directus an insight into current industry benchmarks and trends. It’s another example of how the bank is providing a more specialised service.

“We meet with our relationship director on a regular basis. They are always available, very approachable and looking for ways to help us improve our business,” Gates explained. “We also have access to a network of other businesses in our sector, which can provide us with some interesting and useful insights.”

Directus
www.directus.com.au

St.George Bank
Mark Burgess, Relationship Director – Food & Beverage
mark.burgess@stgeorge.com.au, 0404 832 035

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