Sunny Queen Australia’s expansion has seen what was once a traditional agricultural producer become part of Queensland’s new wave of innovative advanced manufacturing.
At Sunny Queen Australia, millions of chooks are leading the company’s transformation from a traditional agricultural player into a global manufacturer of innovative pre-prepared meals. Its hens lay hundreds of millions of eggs each year which are sold as whole ‘shell eggs’ or in Sunny Queen’s innovative range of frozen, egg-based ‘meal solutions’.
Sunny Queen was the first Australian egg company to become a national producer and is the nation’s largest organic egg farmer. More recently, the expansion of its meal solutions business saw it invest $40 million in a state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing plant and headquarters in Carole Park, Brisbane, and employ 30 new people including process and maintenance engineers, a dietician and an innovation chef. The new facility was officially opened in February 2017 by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Minister for Development Anthony Lynham.
‘The Queensland Government helped Sunny Queen find the Carole Park location and provided a grant to help us get on our feet and invest our $40 million in this state-of-the-art facility,’ explains Managing Director John O’Hara.
‘It’s been a 10-year journey, and the Queensland Government has been with us all the way. They enabled us to get the place designed, built and up-and-running within our timetable and our budget. … We’ve built a growing manufacturing facility in Queensland and we’re providing an opportunity for others to become a part of it.’
Carole Park also offered two crucial elements necessary for Sunny Queen’s growth: infrastructure and education. ‘We needed to hire employees who had the right skills,’ explains O’Hara. ‘We’re an innovative company and we need a high-tech workforce to reflect that.’ To date, Sunny Queen has expanded its workforce to 120.
‘Carole Park is also a hub for logistics,’ says O’Hara, ‘not just airports and ports but also major highways to southern states and the north. This location allows us to grow and ensures we have access to domestic and international markets.’
Sunny Queen was born out of the old Egg Board in 1994 when the Queensland Government deregulated the market and gave quota holders shares in the unlisted public company. By 2002, two third-generation Queensland families had bought out the other shareholders to create the current privately held company.
‘At that time,’ explains O’Hara, ‘it was predominantly a shell egg business and limited to Queensland.’ However, the company expanded its distribution network and Sunny Queen became available throughout Australia. Although the sale of shell eggs accounted for 98 per cent of its business, O’Hara says the company knew it needed to expand into other products.
Market research revealed a huge potential for value-added meal solutions in Australia, so Sunny Queen developed a globally unique proprietary manufacturing process and found customers in health and aged care, food service outlets and in defence. By 2006 the company had outgrown its Coolangatta facility and relocated to Yatala, only to outgrow this facility in 2014.
‘We knew it was time to make a greater investment in our value-added meal solutions business. By going to a new state-of-the-art facility and [using] what we’d learned, we came up with new products that aren’t manufactured anywhere else in the world, particularly the way we do it.’
Today, the Carole Park facility produces a wide range of frozen egg products that are cooked fresh, snap frozen, and can be reheated in minutes. Sunny Queen also works with clients to develop bespoke products, and offers free-range and cage-free egg products.
Sunny Queen started with 200 square metres and now occupies more than ten times that space, producing more than 1000 tonnes of product annually. O’Hara says the next step is to continue growing the product portfolio. ‘We see great opportunity in export markets, particularly South East Asia and parts of the Pacific.’
‘When we export our products we bring money back to Queensland to invest in products, people and technology,’ says O’Hara. ‘This boosts the supply chain as we use local businesses to help us maintain current equipment.’