Photo: Rob Homer
Australian confectionery maker Darrell Lea just had its first Christmas under its new ownership, the Quinn family. With a bit of help from pop star Delta Goodrem, it has been a big success.
Goodrem mentioned Darrell Lea’s Nougat Pudding in a profile piece that ran in the Australian Women’s Weekly’s December edition. Klark Quinn, who is overseeing the turnaround of the confectionery maker, says the favourable mention helped sales of the Christmas pudding-resembling sweet.
“They just raced out the door,” says Quinn. More than 200,000 Nougat Puddings were sold, one of the highest years on record.
The Quinn family – who have a fortune estimated by BRW to be worth $350 million, derived mainly from its upmarket chilled petfood business VIP Petfoods – bought Darrell Lea’s manufacturing and distribution business in September 2012, after the Lea family had put the confectionery maker into administration two months earlier. All of Darrell Lea’s stores, both company-owned and franchises, were closed.
The company lost $3.3 million in 2011. In its last five years, sales fell by more than 20 per cent to $80 million.
Karl Quinn says his turnaround strategy has been to focus on making the manufacturing process more efficient while exploring new distribution deals. Darrell Lea is currently stocked in Coles, along with IGA supermarkets, newsagents and chemists. Quinn says a distribution deal with Woolworths will soon begin, and trials are currently being run in McDonald’s.
He is confident the business will soon be profitable but that it will involve significant further investment. In two months, new packaging will be released onto the market in an attempt to make the brand more popular with younger consumers.
Next year the confectionery factory will move from Kogarah to Ingleburn in Sydney at a cost of tens of millions of dollars. “That’s going to be a big, brave move,” Quinn says.
He is currently living on-site at Kogarah in a single room with an en suite that sits atop the factory from which he can hear the buzzes and whirs from the building throughout the night. Darrell Lea himself once lived in the room.
“So far, I haven’t seen any ghosts. I think we’re doing everything OK by them,” he says.