Food & Beverage
Food & Beverage
Founded in 1918 by the Ingham family, Inghams Enterprises is one of the biggest poultry and chicken producers in Australia. Here’s its incredible journey of growth over a century…
Inghams Enterprises is the leading poultry producer in Australia and New Zealand. Its products are also exported around the world in the UK, Middle East, and Asia.
Inghams Enterprises started as a fruit and vegetable farming venture more than a century ago.
Today, it is the largest integrated poultry producer in Australia with a significant market share in the poultry and non-poultry market, offering processed chicken, turkey, and stockfeed products.
Key Statistics of 2021 Highlighting Inghams Enterprises Size & Stature
Let’s dive into Ingham’s history and see how a small family business has grown exponentially over the years despite various trials and tribulations…
Inghams Enterprises is a name to be reckoned with in the Australian poultry industry today.
Apart from the titular family name, however, there are no hints that reveal its humble beginnings as a small family farm selling fruits and vegetables.
How did the company come so far? Let’s take a look at the first few years of Ingham’s beginnings.
Inghams Enterprises was established in 1918 when Walter Ingham Sr. gifted his eighteen-year-old son 42 acres of bush property in Casula, Western Sydney.
Initially, the Inghams had intended to run a small, profitable family business and had no intentions to expand it into the national giant we know today.
Before this additional investment, Walter Ingham already had small farms in various places through which he earned his income.
His son, Walter Jr., was inspired by him and wanted to become a farmer. Therefore, he began his long journey by producing fruits and vegetables on the gifted farm. Later, he transitioned into the chicken industry.
While Walter Sr. preferred a small, cozy business, his two sons were interested in expanding the business and selling their products all over Australia.
They were determined to build a legacy for their late father and as they got more involved, the small family business grew into a lucrative local enterprise, which was one of the major meat suppliers during the war years.
It was hard to tell that the sons had started out with seven birds – one cockerel and six hens. In just a few decades, the company had ownership of over 1000 birds!
In the early 1940s, many companies were struggling to stay afloat during the World War. This was especially hard for companies that depended on others to complete their line of production.
Inghams was self-sufficient during this time period, which allowed it to counter the scarcity of meat in the domestic market.
The company worked hard to fill in the demand-supply gap and was able to generate profit during a period when most businesses were generating losses.
As the men were fighting the war, Inghams made use of female workers. This allowed the women to support their struggling families, while Inghams quickly gained a reputation across Australia.
In this way, the company was able to naturally establish its position as a chicken producer in the domestic market. Additionally, this period proved to be an eye-opener, as it showed the untapped potential of the local market and the ample opportunities for local expansion.
The war became an overture to Ingham’s position as a national poultry giant in Australia.
As the world recovered from the war and slowly moved towards a technological revolution, the demands of producers and customers alike began to change.
Inghams took note of the changing times and used its revenue to build its first processing plant at Casula in 1958. By doing so, it became the first in the poultry market in Australia to install a processing unit.
The plant in Casula was quickly succeeded in 1961 by a processing factory in Hoxton Park, Western Sydney.
The introduction of such units enabled the company to achieve new levels of efficiency and sales.
By the mid-1960s, along with the plants, Inghams had also embraced new packaging and processing styles, which aided its fast expansion and success in the chicken industry.
Furthermore, Inghams unveiled a new fleet of locally produced automobiles around the same time period, which included this cutting-edge Dodge.
The use of technology allowed Inghams to increase its scale of operations dramatically.
Along with its technology strategy, Inghams took a few more actions that would set it on the road to future expansion.
For example, Inghams bought 50% of the shares of the famous turkey company, A.A. Tegel in 1963. Later, Inghams would buy 100% of the shares, therefore, acquiring the company’s unique breeding system for turkeys.
Furthermore, in 1965, Inghams Enterprises was incorporated. This allowed the company to exist as a separate legal entity outside of the family, therefore marking the company’s transition from a family business to the future poultry empire.
Following this, the company acquired 51% of the shares of Golden Poultry, thus, fending off some of the competition in the domestic market. Once again, this was a sign that the company intended to move beyond its image as a cozy, family business.
Inghams ended the 1960s with a complete takeover of Eastoes Transport, which signified that the company was thinking ahead. Previously, Inghams had been a customer of the company. Now, with the takeover, transporting the chicken would be easier and cheaper.
At every stage of its history, Inghams was mindful of its context.
During the World War, Inghams was aware of the huge gap in the market created by the scarcity of meat. Therefore, it rushed to fill in the demand by increasing its production of meat.
The company understood that the supply of labor was also short as the men were fighting in the war. To counter that, they looked for female workers and proudly worked with them to produce a consistent supply of meat.
After the war, Inghams was aware of the technological progress happening all over the globe.
The company realized that future success depended largely on embracing these novel technological methods, and took swift action, therefore becoming the first to create a processing plant in its industry.
Ingham's awareness of its context allowed it to expand throughout its history.
While the company started as a farm of forty-two acres, it became a leading poultry producer in the next half-century, as it seized the opportunities provided to it by the times.
Under Jack and Bob, the two sons who took over Inghams Enterprises, the company continued to flourish.
The Inghams spirit was rooted in the idea of growth through collaboration and acquisition.
Thus, the company always had its eyes peeled for new opportunities which would allow it to increase production capacity, as well as freshen the brand image and keep it trendy.
As mentioned, Inghams was already generating a hefty revenue because it took timely action in World War II and beyond.
After the 1960s, the company became even more persistent in its efforts to expand.
In the 1970s, for example, the company took over Diamond Foods and Roseleigh Piggery, among others. Both acquisitions had specific purposes.
Diamond Foods was a leading meat wholesale company. Its takeover, thus, gave Inghams access to restaurants, butchers, supermarket chains, and other regular buyers of meat.
Roseleigh Piggery, as can be deduced by the name, allowed Inghams to diversify beyond its primary product – chicken.
Furthermore, the company also purchased 300 hectares of land for a new broiler complex, in addition to building the Clyde feed mill.
The 1980s saw even a more vigorous approach to expansion. The company acquired Cester Poultry, Pappas Poultry, Fantasy Egg Farms, Warwick Farm, and many other businesses.
The takeover of each company proved to be useful to Inghams, as it increased its market share and reduced local competition. The acquisition of farms also allowed the company to boost production capacity, as it automatically gave Inghams access to different birds and animals.
The 1990s followed a similar trajectory, although the key event in this period was Ingham's expansion into New Zealand.
Before moving on to Ingham's new market in New Zealand, let's take a look at two of the most noteworthy collaborations in the 1970s and 1980s.
In today’s world, everyone is familiar with KFC and McDonald’s. The two restaurants have been around for a long time and KFC Australia was established way back in the 1960s.
As a leading poultry producer, Inghams had its eye on this eminent fast-food place. Thus, as the company continued to expand, it seized the opportunity and sealed the deal with KFC in 1976.
This deal continues to provide a good revenue stream even today.
The collaboration with McDonalds also catapulted Inghams to new heights. This contract, signed in 1985, allowed the company to become the famed restaurant’s primary chicken supplier.
The deal was such a success that Inghams had to dedicate an entire processing plant for the nuggets!
Chicken consumption in Australia was on the rise and thus, Inghams enjoyed a period of strong growth in the 1990s.
For the first time, however, the company decided to enter a foreign market. This venture began with its acquisition of Harvey Farms in New Zealand in 1990.
By 1997, Inghams had also acquired a processing plant and a new breeder farm in Cambridge, New Zealand, and in 2004, the company was already making plans to increase production capacity in its locations in the new country.
Needless to say, the venture into New Zealand was a success. Inghams is now recognized as a leading poultry producer in the aforementioned country today as well.
Inghams also searched for other overseas opportunities, apart from establishing operations in New Zealand.
For example, in 2000, Inghams entered into a joint venture with Bioproducts Incorporated, which was the largest pet food manufacturer in the USA.
The venture in New Zealand allowed Inghams to leap to great heights in terms of revenue and reputation.
At the same time, the company didn’t forget its home country. After all, an Empire is always loyal to its capital!
The 1990s and early 2000s were years of massive growth for Inghams in Australia. For example, in 1994, Inghams bought 44 hectares of land in Queensland for industrial purposes. Later, the company bought an additional 17 hectares, along with 6 lots in the same area.
In 1995, Inghams upgraded its Mangrove Mountain processing plant to increase supply for McDonald’s. As can be seen, the supply of chicken to McDonald’s was going strong even a decade later!
In 1999, the company also bought a new ‘grandparent’ poultry farm in Australia, which once again increased production capacity.
The purchase of new lands and the acquisitions serve as evidence of the growing demand for chicken in Australia and the consequent success of Inghams as its supplier.
The 2000s were similar – in 2001, for example, Inghams bought a new plant in Queensland, along with a new feed mill in New South Wales.
In 2004, the company completed its acquisition of Chickadee Foods and in 2005, it bought the remaining shares of Aldinga Table Turkeys.
In fact, in the first decade of 2000, Inghams Enterprises invested over $1 billion to build state-of-art facilities to meet future growth plans. This included both Australia and New Zealand, and as can be seen in today's time, the investment was worth it!
Ingham's story doesn't end with the production of chicken.
The two sons – Jack and Bob – who took on the formidable task of expansion, were ambitious, passionate, and had an eye that picked up on available opportunities.
The same sons were also passionate about horses and therefore, also started a thoroughbred breeding and racing business alongside their poultry empire.
In 2008, the bloodstock operation was sold and it made history in the world of thoroughbred racing and breeding as the biggest ever deal of its kind.
Apart from the revenue generated by the Bloodstock Division, what this particular 'passion' did was to create a reputation for Inghams Enterprises beyond its chicken production.
Thus, the dynamic interests of the Ingham sons paid well in terms of both reputation and revenue.
Inghams was already doing a great job meeting the demands of the Australian market. However, the Ingham family still took the risk of expanding into New Zealand.
The entry into a foreign market allowed the company to generate more revenue and gain a reputation beyond its motherland.
The company also diversified into other markets. For example, the acquisition of Roseleigh Piggery allowed it to explore the bacon market.
Similarly, the joint venture with Bioproducts Incorporated in the USA was also another unique experience that enabled the company to explore options that were not rooted in Australia or chicken production.
It's not a bad thing to explore newer ways of expanding. Even if the new idea doesn't work out, it still keeps the brand image fresh and interesting!
In the following years, Inghams continued to expand through several different strategies.
Along with investing in domestic markets, the company also went public in 2016, appearing as a powerful force in the corporate world.
The Inghams family had carried their business for about a century. They had done the painstaking day-to-day work and taken important decisions throughout these years.
Thus, in 2013, it was high time that they delegated the responsibility of day-to-day operations to someone else.
Selling the company to a global investment firm was a good way to ensure that the business continued to thrive. Additionally, for the Inghams, the main role was to consistently provide high-quality chicken to its customers.
Through this sale, therefore, the Inghams were able to delegate some of their responsibility, while at the same time retaining the majority of the management and C-suite personnel.
The company was doing well before the sale, too. It had accumulated a revenue of $2.2 billion in 2012 alone and had around 8000 employees working on all its sites. As a result, Mr. Ingham was advised to float the company before making a traditional sale.
However, Mr. Ingham wanted rapid resolution of the business. Therefore, the company was auctioned in the market, where TPG Capital would win the bid, offering $880 million as the sale price.
TPG Capital was a global investment firm, with offices in many locations, such as the US, Europe, and South America.
Thus, apart from attracting investment, the sale also contributed to Inghams’ reputation as a leading poultry producer in Australia and New Zealand. In other words, the sale worked as a seal of approval for the firm.
Due to the company's success, it was inevitable that it would be floated on the stock exchange in the following years. The company finally went public in October 2016.
In the country's largest IPO of 2016, Inghams was able to raise $1.1 billion. Around 50 to 60 percent of its stock was sold in the IPO, which created opportunities for investment in automation and new distribution channels.
Inghams had many factories scattered all over Australia and New Zealand. Therefore, managing them was no easy task, and the company had its own share of obstacles along the way.
For example, at the end of 2015, fires broke out in South Australia, which affected the company’s Hamley Bridge breeder farm.
Inghams’ emergency services and safety precautions allowed minimum injuries to the employees. In fact, only one employee was injured, while the rest were safely evacuated.
The chickens on the farm were not so lucky and around 60,000 of them were lost in the fire. Thus, the company's supply was hindered, though it assured its customers that it would do its best to mitigate the circumstances.
Sure enough, the company was back on its feet just as quickly. In the following months, it announced an investment of $275 million in South Australian operations. The investment would include two new breeder farms, which would help compensate for the loss from the fires and increase supply even beyond that.
The investment would also be used to upgrade primary processing plants and to build a potential new feed mill at Murray Bridge.
The company recognized that investment was crucial at this stage, considering that the demand for chicken was continuously rising, while the supply was relatively short. Therefore, the investment in new farms, as well as in automation, would allow the company to fill the demand-supply gap.
Ingham's strategy was to expand its national network. As its CEO reasserted, there was enough domestic demand to keep them busy for a long time. Therefore, its investments were catered toward increasing national chicken-producing capacity.
At the same time, however, Inghams critically evaluated the productivity and efficiency of its current plans to avoid complacency. Hence, as part of its strategy, it closed down its Cardiff processing plant.
This led to the loss of around 200 jobs. Inghams took full responsibility for these job losses and followed up with its employees to help them find different opportunities either within or outside the company.
Investment could compensate for losses, but not stop them. At the end of 2016, there was an ammonia leak in the Bolivar Plant in South Australia. This happened while the plant was undergoing maintenance. Fortunately, no employee was injured, and the plant was temporarily cleared for operation.
These incidents are a normal part of managing an expanding network of factories. Ingham’s management of such problems was nevertheless praiseworthy, as it always took timely action and prioritized employee safety above all else.
Inghams maintained a good brand image by expressing concern for its employees and deploying new strategies which would allow it to bring in top national talent.
For example, Inghams followed through with employees who had lost their jobs as a result of the closure of the Cardiff plant.
In 2016, the company introduced another program that would open up opportunities for new graduates in the disciplines of Engineering, Agriculture, and Business.
The two-year program recruited ten graduates and allowed them to lead and manage teams across different parts of Ingham’s business. This allowed fresh new talent to flow into the business, while at the same time boosting Ingham’s reputation as a generous employer.
Ingham’s expansion strategy focused exclusively on domestic markets.
Instead of branching out and creating a global network, the company exploited the existing demand in Australia and New Zealand, which was on the rise.
In other words, Inghams knew that it was not ready for global expansion, and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing! The local market was so huge that it was more than enough to help them expand beyond their hopes.
Inghams was also mindful of the productivity and efficiency of its processing plants. It closed factories where necessary and established them in other, more worthwhile places.
Inghams knew that digital transformation was essential for any company operating in the twenty-first century. Thus, the business looked out for opportunities that would allow it to take advantage of technology and develop a competitive edge.
The company also ensured that it took care of the environment along the way. It used both technological and non-technological methods to promote sustainability.
Due to its efforts, it was awarded the Yum! Supplier of the Year award for its corporate social responsibility in May 2016.
By 2016, Inghams was making heavy investments aimed at increasing efficiency, capacity, and food safety.
Through these investments, the company aimed to increase automation in its plants.
Specifically, Inghams intended to automate the process of deboning, which refers to removing bones and skin from the carcass.
Another area that Ingham’s aimed to automate was portion cutting. Computer-controlled portion cutting would ensure accurate measurements as well as reduce wastage by optimizing usage of the available chicken.
Lastly, the investments were also focused on decreasing efficiencies in the production line. This included how the product was cleaned and handled.
Another notable improvement to the production process occurred when the company decided to collaborate with HatchTech in 2019.
This collaboration allowed the company to take advantage of the animal-friendly incubators provided by HatchTech. These incubators did not just enhance product quality but also contributed toward bird welfare.
Apart from transforming the production process, Inghams also sought to enhance administration through the purchase of several software applications.
For example, recognizing that the rising demand for chicken and turkey in Australia made it hard for the company to accurately forecast the required supply, Inghams made use of a software called FuturMaster in 2019.
FuturMaster is an accurate demand-planning software, which allows companies to keep track of the current demand for its products. As a result of this investment, Inghams was able to stay on top of orders and produce the right amount of chicken just in time for Christmas!
Inghams also bought software for other purposes such as payroll, workforce management, marketing automation, and so on.
The company’s readiness to purchase relevant software and adopt new technological methods allowed the smooth running of its operations and enabled it to increase efficiency beyond expectations.
Inghams owned many farms across Australia and New Zealand and naturally, it needed water to maintain those farms and raise the chickens. The company also needed water to process the birds in its plants.
Inghams, however, was not prodigal in its water usage. It understood the need for water conversation, especially within the context of climate change.
For example, Ingham’s Bolivar processing plant consumed the highest level of water within the business. Taking this into notice, Inghams launched the Bolivar Blue Initiative, which was catered toward challenging reducing water usage in the plant by twenty percent.
By 2020, Bolivar had already reduced water usage by 100 million liters. This was around half of their goal, which would reduce annual water usage by eighty Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Similarly, the company also took water-saving actions at its Tahmoor Turkey Processing Plant. The company put together a leadership team that explored different water-saving options.
For example, the team suggested preventative measures for water leakages. They also worked with factory cleaners, updating their practices to allow minimum water usage.
They even reduced the water volume in the spin chiller tanks by 14,000 liters per processing day! On the other hand, wastewater was reduced by 200 liters per day.
Ingham’s water-saving policy revolved around the philosophy of challenging the status quo. Thus, wherever water was being used, the company’s sustainability team questioned: is it necessary to use this much water in this stage of production?
Ingham’s strategy of ‘thinking outside the box’ ultimately led to another victory for its sustainability team.
In the Edinburgh Parks Further Processing Plant, water was used to cool the overdoor seals, which required 5.7 million liters of water.
The present team questioned whether this was necessary, contacting the manufacturer of the ovens to see if their chicken would still be safe if they explored alternative options to cool the door seals. They discovered that eliminating water usage would have no real impact on their product.
Hence, the Edinburgh Parks team was able to save 5.7 million liters of water annually because of their critical evaluation of water usage in all stages of the production process.
Ingham’s water-saving actions did not go unnoticed.
Again and again, the company received rewards and certifications for its efforts in protecting the environment and conserving water.
For example, in 2017, the Te Aroha primary processing plant in New Zealand received certification from the International Alliance for Water Stewardship, making it the sixth site in the world to be certified.
Similarly, in 2021, Inghams was awarded the Platinum Waterwise Business of the Year award in Western Australia, for its innovative water management and industry-leading practice in the Wanneroo Feed mill.
In the same year, Inghams also received Platinum certification for its Murarrie Primary Processing Plant in Queensland. This certification was proffered by The Alliance for Water Stewardship and was the highest level in the international water stewardship standard.
While the water was Ingham's primary concern in terms of sustainability, the company also focused on other ways to protect the environment.
Inghams was wary of the pollution it created, and the non-environmentally friendly practices carried out in the workplace.
Similar to its water-saving innovations, the company was always on the lookout for any alternative practices that would get rid of all unnecessary wastage.
In 2020, the company sought to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its freight network. This was done by creating a more efficient freight system, thereby reducing the number of deliveries made per month.
As a result of this project, Inghams was able to reduce 71 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per annum.
In the same year, Inghams also worked towards reducing plastic-bag usage in its deliveries. The plastic bags used to transfer bulk feed ingredients took more than 3000 years to break down, which was detrimental to the environment.
Ingham’s solution was to partner with PRC Recycling in Queensland, where it sent its plastic-bag wastage. There, the plastic bags were recycled into hard hats.
Similarly, in 2021, Ingham’s achieved zero wastage at its Dry Creek Distribution Center in South Australia.
This was done through the help of SUEZ-ResourceCo’s Alternative Fuels facility, which was where the distribution center’s general waste was recycled and transformed into fuel.
In 2022, Inghams further pledged that it would abide by the Science-Based Targets Initiative which was created by global organizations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
This initiative would allow Inghams to take a systematic approach toward alleviating the dangerous impacts of climate change. It would also allow it to amass information on sustainability which was backed by a robust research background.
Inghams was quite transparent about how it treated its animals. In its Animal Health and Welfare Report, published in 2021, the company detailed how animal welfare was protected, along with its partnerships with other animal welfare organizations.
The company reassured its customers that the birds they kept were well-fed. It also countered the myth that these birds were grown artificially through hormonal growth procedures.
Ingham’s animal welfare strategy was based on The Five Freedoms.
These were: freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury, and disease, freedom to express normal behavior, and freedom from fear and distress. Granting these freedoms to its bird was Ingham's top priority.
Furthermore, it also outlined in detail how these birds were slaughtered, stressing that they were not put under any undue distress or fear.
In line with that, Ingham’s assured that every bird was subject to appropriate pre-slaughter stunning to reduce pain, fear, and distress within them.
Inghams was able to surpass sustainability expectations because it came up with innovative ideas to reduce all kinds of wastage.
This allowed the company to achieve huge sustainability goals and contribute to an environmentally-friendly world. That wasn’t the end of it, however.
The company also received recognition for its efforts regarding sustainability. Its commitment to such goals created trust in customers and ensured them that the company had its priorities set straight.
This was particularly important as Inghams is a food business, and customers often prefer buying from places that they can trust in terms of hygiene.
Furthermore, the company also took measures to protect animal welfare and was quite transparent about these actions. This further created trust in customers and thus, garnered a steady customer base for Inghams.
Ingham’s rich history is filled with a passionate determination to expand, grow, and delight customers.
The company continues to focus not just on maximizing profits, but on delivering the promise of tasty chicken in Australia and New Zealand.
Inghams aspires to spread happiness on every table of the country through its high-quality chicken.
“To be a world-class food company at the heart of every table.”
Ingham's purpose is to provide scrumptious food while retaining its values of care, courage, curiosity, and commitment.
“To provide deliciously good food in the best way; the Ingham’s way!”
Number of Employees
Ingham’s fruitful journey offers many lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Here are a few strategic takeaways that can help you take the first steps toward building your own empire!
Always Look For Opportunities
The first few years of running a business are always tough. The trick is to look for the rays of light that can help you trailblaze through these beginning years.
Inghams took advantage of the scarcity of meat created by World War II because it stayed on its heels and was aware of current market conditions.
It was also able to produce chicken because it countered the restricted labor supply by hiring women.
Similarly, Ingham's capitalization of the New Zealand market, its collaboration with KFC and McDonald's, and its focus on technological methods were all ways in which the company searched for opportunities and actively took advantage of them.
That was why Ingham’s was the first to build a processing unit in the Australian poultry industry, and that was why it was the company that signed the deal with KFC and McDonald’s.
Explore Different Avenues For Growth
The history of Inghams is scattered with examples of collaborations, acquisitions, and developments.
From the start, the company focused on opening new production plants, acquiring new farms, and increasing production capacity.
The company’s expansion was also strategic. For example, its acquisition of Diamond Foods allowed it to gain access to a range of meat buyers.
On the other hand, the company also evaluated which of its sites were productive and closed down inefficient plants where necessary.
Be Prepared for The Worst
The company’s increasing portfolio of factory plants and farms scattered throughout Australia and New Zealand meant that disasters could strike at any moment.
The fires in South Australia and the ammonia leak are two known examples in the history of Inghams.
In such a situation, the employees of Inghams were able to escape with minimal injuries. This indicates the company's keen attention to worker safety.
Furthermore, while Inghams suffered losses from both incidents, it was able to bounce back because of its continuous investment and growth.
Therefore, as a business grows, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that profits and production from different sites can compensate for any disastrous losses!
Be Transparent and Retain Customer Trust
Ingham’s publication of the Animal Healthcare and Welfare Report was an important step that ensured the customers of the business’s ethics as well as the quality of its products.
Inghams did not shy away from reporting its disasters, as well as its successes.
The company especially published its triumphs in its attempt to run a sustainable business, which reassured the customers of Ingham’s intentions to protect the environment as much as possible.
The updates provided by the company, therefore, helped Ingham’s keep its customers content and satisfied!
What started as a small family business has now become a thriving – and inspiring – poultry empire. Today, Inghams Enterprises is renowned for providing high-quality chicken all over Australia and New Zealand. Throughout its journey, the company has followed ethical practices and taken giant strides toward sustainability.