In this series we get to know our co-operative members. Today we talk with MG Marketing CEO Peter Hendry about the organisation’s vision, being a co-operative and how they keep shareholders engaged.

MG Marketing (MG) is New Zealand’s leading supplier of fresh produce. Aside from their size and scale, a key point of difference is the fact that the business is owned by growers – the men and women who produce the fresh fruit and vegetables. MG acts as the marketing and distribution arm of their business. MG Marketing is also New Zealand’s largest seller of domestic and imported fresh produce in the market and owns, or has a stake in, a number of complementary businesses including farming, Intellectual Property, auctioning flowers, as well as exporting.

1. Peter - tell us about the vision for MG Marketing?

    MG’s vision is to be a leader in the horticulture industry, preferred partner for growers and customers and a great place to work. As a business we have a strong focus on securing a fair value for our grower-shareholders’ fruit and vegetables while also creating opportunities for their growth.

    2. What are your main points of difference being a co-operative?

    Our grower-shareholder business model has thrived since 1923 and our success is because of the strength of our growers and their vision to realise the significance of working together as a co-operative. One of the main differences is that MG provides a platform for growers of any size to go to market together. Also, through our grassroots governance structure, every grower-shareholder is empowered to influence decisions regarding the business operations and decisions.

    3. What are the key issues you are currently trying to address?

    Attracting and retaining talent is a challenge that the produce and horticulture sector continues to struggle with. This is partly due to a poor understanding of what happens day-to-day – it is a very interesting and highly technical industry. We have MG programmes in place to address this and are looking at ways to support our growers. Like most businesses, there’s an increased focus on issues related to sustainability and climate change.

    4. What trends are you seeing and what is your organisation doing to make itself future proof?

    Our industry is constantly evolving and we are well versed in dealing with inherent volatility. To ensure our co-operative is sustainable over the long-term we have diversified to include imports, exports, growing operations and investment in IP to complement our core strength of marketing fresh produce on behalf of our family of growers.

    5. Co-operation among co-operatives is a Rochdale Principle from 1844: how do you work with fellow co-operatives?

    Some of MG’s most important business partners are fellow co-operatives. In a broad sense, we look to support other co-operative businesses in areas such as banking and general supplies. We’ve also formed strong relationships over the years and regularly connect to share ideas and insights.

    6. For MG, what are the main benefits of being a co-operative?

    One of the main benefits of being a co-operative is we operate for the benefit of our grower-shareholders, which encourages them to transact business with MG. Our loyal grower-shareholders share in our success through regular dividends and rebates. MG has also been in a position to issue grower-shareholders with bonus shares for six consecutive years. We also offer our grower-shareholders a number of add-value services such as marketing and branding support, IP development and support with business planning.

    7. How to do keep your shareholders engaged?

    We use a number of communication channels to engage with our shareholders, including a series of face-to-face grower-shed meetings in locations throughout the country. However, the richest engagement comes from our outstanding MG reps and procurement team who regularly work alongside our grower-shareholders.