Mondelez Australia Chief Warns of Manufacturing Crisis

The head of Mondelez Australia, Darren O’Brien, has raised alarms about a deepening crisis in the country’s manufacturing sector, stressing that it is just as critical as the cost of living issues plaguing consumers. O’Brien, who oversees operations for a global powerhouse in the food industry known for brands like Cadbury and Toblerone, articulated these concerns at the Australian Food and Grocery Council conference. He emphasised that escalating costs for essentials such as energy and transportation are pushing local food production to the brink, potentially leading businesses to relocate overseas.

O’Brien pointed out that Australia’s once robust automotive and textiles industries have dwindled, now heavily dependent on imports. He warned that the food and grocery sector might face a similar fate if changes aren’t embraced. “We cannot afford to repeat history and let our food industry collapse. It’s vital that we adapt, innovate, and invest to secure its future,” he stated.

In his speech, O’Brien criticised the recent spate of government inquiries into supermarkets as mere political stunts. He also condemned the growing trend of “profit shaming,” where businesses are vilified for their financial gains, arguing that profitability is essential for sustained investment and innovation in the industry.

Highlighting the severity of the situation, O’Brien compared the plight of food manufacturers to the broader economic challenges Australians face. “We’re grappling with not only a cost-of-living crisis but also a cost-of-manufacturing crisis,” he explained. According to him, these financial strains have made Australia one of the most expensive places in the world to operate a business.

Moreover, O’Brien critiqued the country’s infrastructure inadequacies, such as outdated rail lines and inefficient transport systems, which amplify operational costs. He called for a strategic overhaul to enhance energy affordability and reliability to prevent further detriment to the manufacturing sector.

The Mondelez executive also lamented the complex and costly regulatory demands on manufacturers, especially concerning environmental reporting. “The focus is too often on bureaucratic reporting rather than on meaningful actions to improve our environmental impact,” he remarked. This bureaucratic burden, he argued, stifles creativity and unnecessarily inflates costs, pushing companies to their limits.

In essence, O’Brien’s message was clear: for Australia to maintain a thriving manufacturing base, the business environment needs to shift towards a more supportive, innovative, and less bureaucratic one.
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