The Golden Circle Limited Company has been an integral part of the Banyo-Nudgee area since 1947. This wholly owned Australian company has employed thousands of workers at its Earnshaw Road premises, many of whom live locally. Golden Circle has been a major sponsor of the local Bangee Festival, which began, more than ten years ago.
Golden Circle is a Queensland and Australian icon. It is now the largest fruit cannery in Australia and produces over 400 products, processing 97 % of all pineapples processed in Australia.
It was born from the recommendation of the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing and the Pineapple Sectional Group Committee. It was a long and complex birthing process with other stakeholders and interested parties. Over 900 growers originally bought shares in the co-operative.
The company is sited close to the railway on 16.5 hectares of land. Bindah railway station was built to provide a stop for cannery workers.
Within the complex there are ripening and thawing rooms, a frozen storage facility and they are the largest users of tetra packs in Australia.
In the early 1950s the company implemented a strategy to become self sufficient, beginning with the installation of modern freezing equipment and can making machinery. Next were the new 'ginaca' machines for peeling and coring pineapples, imported from U.S.A.
The first products were canned pineapple and jams, then in 1948 canned paw paw, pineapple jelly and citrus cordials were added and tropical fruit salad was exported to Canada. Pineapple and other fruit juices in bottles followed in the 1950s, along with a carbonated soft drink plant and modern bottling equipment.
Canned beetroot was marketed nationally in the sixties and a corrugated carton plant was established. Pineapple bulk receiving equipment was next having been trialed in Beerwah and Glasshouse Mountains areas to ensure safety and efficiency.
In the early 80s with political parties committed to tariff reduction a diversification program was implemented to weather results of cheap imports. Fluctuating sugar prices, a sluggish Australian economy and drought and other climatic vagaries added to the challenges facing Golden Circle. An aggressive marketing campaign of all products to retain market share was undertaken.
The cannery has traditionally been a major employer of seasonal workers. Newly arrived immigrants and students comprising a high percentage of the workforce. A young uni student and future Premier of Queensland, Peter Beattie, worked on the fruit lines to help pay for his education.
In the mid 90s the company demonstrated its adaptability in a changing marketplace by outsourcing its can and carton manufacturing processes and selling off the unused equipment.
The company became an unlisted public company in 1992 with no long-term debt, as all progress and expansion had been funded internally. It has a history free of industrial conflict and a reputation as a good employer. On-site training and literacy programs were devised in partnership with Northpoint TAFE (many of the employees were from non-english speaking backgrounds). Supervisory staff tutored other workers and enabled them to gain confidence in a safe environment.
In the late 1990s over $70 m was invested in plant modernisation allowing the product range to increase and reach new markets.
The history of Golden Circle demonstrates the value of the benefit of cooperation, wise government policy, the importance of farmer involvement and control, and the forward thinking, flexibility and innovative management practices of the company.
In 2009, Golden Circle was taken over by the multi-national food company Heinz.
Pineapple processing line - 1950s.