Costa releases 2023 Sustainability Report

View all articles

Costa Group, Australia’s leading grower, packer and marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables, has released its 2023 Sustainability Report.

Costa’s Sustainable Commercial Farming vision, which sets a clear path for how we do business, is firmly embedded across all our operations.

Our 2023 Sustainability Report highlights our progress and achievements, and our commitment to pioneering and leading the way on the development of sustainable solutions within the horticulture sector.

Key highlights include:

  • Five additional solar energy systems were commissioned in our Australian operations, as part of our focus on renewable energy.
  • Trialled and implemented new packaging products and technology including paper bunch bags for grapes and mandarins, and laser etching on hard-skinned fruit in place of non-recyclable price look-up stickers.
  • Innovative data tracking system implemented in citrus and avocado crops to enable the collection and analysis of data across the entire fruit life cycle, improving forecasting and reducing fruit waste.
  • Digital crop management system deployed in Morocco to provide remote climate and environmental monitoring.
  • Donated 319,000 kgs of fruit and vegetables to Foodbank Australia, the equivalent of 575,000 meals.

Through all our activities, our people remain at the heart of our business, and we acknowledge and celebrate our diverse workforce.  We also continue to support the communities in which we farm and work, through volunteering programs, sponsorship and support for education.

Read our 2023 Sustainability Report.

Sustainability Report 2023

 

Costa product innovation drives new premium offerings

View all articles

The new Costa Innovation Centre has been formally launched this week (March 20) at Costa’s glasshouse facility in Guyra, on the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales.

There are close to 30 new types and varieties of produce already being tested in the Innovation Centre to assess their potential as commercial fruit and vegetable product lines.  They include popular produce, such as cucumbers, as well as innovative new varieties of fruit and vegetables.

Marc Werner, Costa CEO, and Manpreet Sidhu, Vertical Farming General Manager, cut the ribbon for the Centre, which is housed in a 4000 sq metre glasshouse.

“Costa is well known for being an industry leader in the growing and supply of premium fresh produce, including our glasshouse grown tomatoes, and we are excited to be able to diversify and extend our product offering. We look forward to sharing more with our customers as we progress through our testing,” Mr Werner said.

Since 2005, Costa has invested more than $200 million in the establishment and ongoing expansion of 40 hectares of glasshouses, spread across two locations in Guyra – Elm Street and New England Highway.

The glasshouses enable produce to be grown in a sustainable and fully protected cropping environment which helps to mitigate the impact of extreme weather volatility, requires less land than comparable field crops, enables the supply of consistent quality produce year-round, and more efficient yield per unit of water usage versus field crops.

“This Centre will ensure we can continue to innovate and develop new, premium quality differentiated produce varieties for our customers, both in Australia and through existing and emerging export opportunities,” Mr Werner said.

It’s official: Costa Group develops and grows world’s heaviest blueberry

View all articles

Costa Group, a global leader in the development of premium blueberry varieties, has hit the record books for developing and growing the world’s heaviest blueberry, according to the official Guinness World Records.

The blueberry was from the Eterna variety, as part of Costa’s globally recognised Variety Improvement Program (VIP), which licenses Costa bred blueberry varieties in regions including the Americas, Morocco, China, and south east Africa.

The blueberry was picked on November 13, 2023, at Costa’s berry farm in Corindi, New South Wales, Australia.  Weighing in at a whopping 20.40g (0.71oz) and measuring 39.31 millimetres, it was grown by Brad Hocking, Jessica Scalzo and Marie-France Courtois.  The previous world record was for a 16.20g berry grown in Western Australia in 2020.

Costa’s VIP program is headquartered at Corindi and has been operating for more than 25 years, developing on average one to two new varieties of blueberries of global commercial value each year.

It utilises Costa’s extensive network of farms in mid latitude, low latitude, and low chill to mid-chill locations to select, evaluate and develop new varieties suitable for a range of global growing conditions, meeting both customer and consumer requirements for premium blueberry varieties.

George Jessett, Costa Berries International Horticulture Manager, said there was a huge amount of confidence and excitement around the new varieties.

“We are always looking to develop new varieties that improve on the current benchmark and meet evolving customer requirements.  We are also looking to breed varieties that are more adaptable to hotter climates, are more drought tolerant and with better resistance against pest and disease pressure,” George said.

Senior Horticulturalist Brad Hocking said the Eterna variety was known for its large fruit size, crisp texture and long shelf life.

“Eterna as a variety has a really great flavour and consistently large fruit.  When we picked this one, there were probably around 20 other berries of a similar size,” Brad said.

While the team is excited to be recognised with the world record, quality and flavour remain the top priority in selecting and developing new varieties through Costa Group’s VIP program.

“This really is a delightful piece of fruit. While the fruit is large, there’s absolutely no compromise on quality or flavour as would be expected when developing a premium variety blueberry,” Brad said.

World's heaviest blueberry on scale

Costa Tomato Exchange awards community grants

View all articles

Seven organisations including community and sporting groups and a school will receive funding through the Costa Tomato Exchange Well Grown Community Grants Program for 2024.

State Manager NSW Brett Ryan said there were 40 applications for funding through the program, which this year provided grants across the five categories of: sporting event/activity; community event; community project; school project/initiative; and environmental initiative/activity.

“We were really pleased to see so many applications and it again made the selection process very difficult.  We used an independent reviewer to assess the applications to ensure they were each judged fairly according to our criteria,” Mr Ryan said.

The recipients for 2024 are:

School project/initiative:  Kelly’s Plains Public School

Environmental initiative/activity: Guyra Neighbourhood Centre

Community Project: Young Life Armidale

Community Event:  Guyra Trout Festival

Sporting event/activity: Guyra Shamrock Hockey, Armidale Blues Netball, Duval Dam Buster Trail Run.

“We look forward to seeing the outcomes from these organisations and thank everyone who took the time to complete an application.”

Costa Group appoints new CEO

View all articles

Costa Group, Australia’s leading fresh produce company is very pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Marc Werner as its new CEO, effective 1 March 2024. Marc commenced with Costa in August 2022 in the role of Chief Operating Officer and was appointed Deputy CEO in July 2023.

Interim Costa CEO, Harry Debney who will be finishing in his role as of 29 February 2024, noted that during Marc’s time with Costa, he has earned the respect of all he has worked with and has established himself as someone recognised for his integrity, work ethic and strong leadership abilities.

“The company looks forward to Marc’s leadership in further growing the business and achieving continued success, I wish him the very best for the future,” said Mr Debney.

Quotes attributable to Marc Werner

“Given the long and successful history of the Costa business, I am honoured to have been appointed to such an important role, and it is a great privilege to follow in the footsteps of all those who have gone before me, including Harry, and Frank Costa.

“Over the past 18 months I have really focused on developing a detailed understanding of the fresh produce industry, to ensure I can effectively lead the business and optimise its success. A key to this will be continued investment in innovation, to both build our competitive advantage and enhance our product offering.

“I look forward to working closely with our key customers, suppliers and other stakeholders to ensure we can further build on these already productive relationships.

“Costa’s people are our greatest asset, and I intend to not only identify and promote their capabilities and key talents, but to continue to position Costa as the employer of choice in the fresh produce industry.

“I also want to acknowledge the efforts of Harry Debney and thank him for his support and mentoring. On behalf of Costa, I wish Harry and his wife Jane all the very best for whatever the future holds for them.”

For further information contact: Michael Toby – Corporate Affairs Manager T: +613 8363 9071

Costa Group enters new ownership phase as experienced Consortium takes control

View all articles

Costa Group has achieved another important milestone in its more than 120-year history with the company’s ownership officially changing hands today (February 26), after being delisted from the ASX earlier this month.

Costa’s shareholders voted in favour of accepting an offer of AUD3.20 per share from an experienced North American based consortium made up of Paine Schwartz Partners, Driscoll’s Inc. and British Columbia Investment Management Corporation.

Started by the Costa family, in Geelong Victoria, Australia in the late 1800s, the business over many decades grew into a leading global horticultural company, recognised as having a unique and valuable portfolio of premium quality fresh produce, including the growing, marketing and supply of blueberries, glasshouse tomatoes, citrus, avocados, mushrooms and table grapes.

As of February 2024, Costa has a production and grower network spanning every state of Australia, China, Morocco, and southern Africa. Costa products are sold into numerous countries around the world, including throughout Europe, UK, Asia, and North America.

Costa is also recognised as being an industry leader in the development of genetics and new plant varieties, especially blueberries. In 2023 alone, Costa launched a record four new blueberry varieties with a strong forward pipeline of products to fuel the company’s growth trajectory.

Paine Schwartz Partners has a long and established track record of investing in the agricultural and food supply chain, which includes a prior equity stake in Costa. Over the past few decades, the firm has invested $5.7 billion in food and agribusiness. This includes not only companies that grow premium fresh produce, such as Monterey Mushrooms, but also ag tech companies, including AgroFresh.

Driscoll’s are well known to Costa, having successfully operated joint ventures together in Australia and China. Driscoll’s are a world leader in the breeding and marketing of berries. They will bring considerable knowledge and resources to the business, and the capability to potentially further the expansion of Costa’s footprint.

British Columbia Investment Management Corporation is a major global institutional investor, with C$233.0 billion in gross assets under management as of March 31, 2023. Their investment in agricultural assets includes an ownership stake in Viterra and mushroom and citrus businesses.

Costa and Driscoll’s will be working on specific projects to grow the global berry business, in addition to their existing arrangements in China, Australia and the Americas which will continue unaffected.

“The Costa team is looking forward to the future and working with its new owners, who given their extensive background of investing in and operating high quality agricultural assets, are committed to further building the business’s capacity and ensuring its ongoing success,” said Costa Group’s Interim CEO, Mr Harry Debney.

For further information contact: Michael Toby – Corporate Affairs Manager T: +613 8363 9071

Community grants for Guyra and Armidale on offer

View all articles

Costa Tomato Exchange is once again offering support for local community organisations in the Guyra and Armidale region through its Well Grown Community Grants Program.

Costa is inviting not-for-profit community organisations, sporting associations and schools to register their interest for the 2024 program.

In 2024 we will be awarding five grants up to a total of $4000 each, with one grant to be awarded in each of the following category areas:

  • Sporting event/activity which promotes and supports healthy active lifestyles.
  • Community event which is aimed at supporting cultural diversity and/or creating strong community connections.
  • School project/initiative which enhances education or educational opportunities, particularly in the areas of healthy eating; or nutrition; or sustainability.
  • Environmental initiative/activity which promotes the enhancement of our environment.
  • Community organisation project aimed at supporting disadvantaged youth and/or Indigenous youth projects.

Organisations seeking to apply for funding will need to complete the Expression of Interest form and submit it online by 5pm Monday, February 19.

Costa operates 40-hectares of state-of-the-art tomato glasshouses across two sites in Guyra, with a production capacity of circa 20 million kgs per annum.  Costa employs more than 700 people across a variety of operational and harvest roles.

Information is available here or email Jessica.Delfos@costagroup.com.au

Recycled paper bag trialled for mandarins

View all articles

Following on from the success of new paper packaging for Costa’s premium table grapes, a new fully recyclable paper bag was trialled for this season’s premium mandarins.

Gilad Sadan, creative directive of NAVI Co Global, is partnering with Costa in the development of a range of sustainable packaging solutions and was instrumental in the design of the bunch bag for the Autumcrisp grapes.

He has also previously worked with the grapes team on the development of a fully recyclable at kerbside grape punnet.

Gilad said the latest trial for mandarins was an evolution of the grape packaging and was the result of an idea from Craig Greenhalgh, National Sales and Operations Manager for Costa’s Citrus Category.

“There’s really interesting cross pollination between the categories and we are using the learnings and applying them to different produce lines,” Craig said.

“For the mandarins we had to find ways to seal the bag, which needed to be a set weight. From a consumer point of view there’s convenience of having the mandarins in a bag, but with no environmental impact.

“Keeping very close to global and local consumer trends we use new product launches to tune into what consumers are looking for and what’s important to them. We received written feedback from consumers congratulating us on our packaging sustainability journey.”

While still in trial stages, Gilad said the new packaging had also opened up new conversations with retailers, and there was potential for use with other produce such as avocados.

Costa supports UTAS scholarships

View all articles

Costa has been a long-term supporter of scholarships at the University of Tasmania and has recently signed up to fund undergraduate and Honours scholarships for another four years. These scholarships provide valuable support helping regional students pursue a university qualification, with a particular focus on agriculture.

The Costa Scholarship in Agricultural Science is available to a student from the North of Tasmania commencing a full-time undergraduate degree in Agriculture in 2024, and provides $5000 a year for up to three years. The Costa Honours Scholarship in Agricultural Science is valued at $10,000 for one year. Applications are now open through University of Tasmania.

Emma Nightingale was the first recipient of the Costa’s Honours scholarship back in 2016 and went on to join Costa, becoming a key member of the horticulture team in Tasmania. You can hear her story in the video below.

New technology removes need for fruit stickers

View all articles

Costa is trialling innovative laser etching technology on hard-skinned fruit to remove the need for fruit stickers as part of its focus on developing sustainable packaging alternatives for its fresh produce.

PLU (price look-up) fruit stickers are used on individual pieces of fruit to convey price and in some cases contain QR codes to provide further provenance information, however they are generally not recyclable.

Gilad Sadan, creative directive of NAVI Co Global, is partnering with Costa in the development of a range of sustainable packaging solutions and is working with Result Group’s Eco Mark on the laser technology.

“This innovative new technology gives us the ability to laser etch the avocado without impacting the produce at all. It removes the need for the PLU sticker, which are mostly not recyclable. There are some compostable stickers, but they are very expensive,” Gilad said.

At the recent Asia Fruit Logistic expo in Hong Kong, Costa’s avocados were on display with the Australian made logo etched on the skin.

The EcoMark Natural Branding removes or causes a pigment change in only the outmost layer of the fruit or vegetable peel. The laser beam remains so close to the surface that fruit and vegetables are completely intact beneath their skin or peel and shelf life is not impacted.

“We are still in the trial stages, but we think that has the potential to be a genuine replacement for PLU stickers which will be a win for the environment and our consumers.”

Volunteers help restore local environment

View all articles

A team of Pacific Island workers from the Costa Berries Corindi farm in New South Wales volunteered their time to work with the local Emerald Beach Landcare group and National Parks and Wildlife Service recently.

The group, from Fiji, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands worked on their day off to remove Senna and Lantana weeds which have been choking out native plants in the regional park north of Emerald Beach. This area has been recently added to the national park estate and their efforts will go a long way to getting it back to its natural condition.

The local Emerald Beach Landcare coordinator Graham Tupper thanked the group for their contribution in getting the regional park back to its pre-settlement condition with more food and homes for the birds and wildlife.

“So great to see the community effort, now stretching across the Pacific Ocean, to help restore and protect our local habitats,” he said.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service put on lunch for the group, who also performed a beautiful hymn in the bush setting.

 

New office location for Costa Group

View all articles

Costa Group Holdings Pty Ltd is moving to a new office location in Melbourne.

Effective 21 August 2023, Costa Group Holdings Pty Ltd and each of its Australian subsidiaries will change its registered address to:

 Level 5 / 818 Bourke Street

Docklands, Victoria 3008

 Locked Bag 38004

Docklands, Victoria 8012