Food delivery no longer out of box

Zach RelphCountryman
Thomas Foods International managing director Darren Thomas speaking at the National Agriculture Day event in Perth.
Camera IconThomas Foods International managing director Darren Thomas speaking at the National Agriculture Day event in Perth. Credit: Zach Relph

Online food ordering systems catering to consumers’ convenience are transforming global meat purchasing, the boss of Australia’s biggest family-owned meat processing company says.

Thomas Foods International managing director Darren Thomas predicts online boxed food delivery services such as Hello Fresh and food delivery platforms including Uber Eats will outgrow supermarket shopping.

Although confident supermarket shopping would continue to exist, Mr Thomas told last Thursday’s National Agriculture Day forum in Perth online alternatives would become more popular.

“If I was still relying on being a price taker and shipping a box out of the meatworks, I am not sure we’d be here today,” he said.

“Bricks and mortar aren’t going to close and we’re not all of a sudden going to be buying everything online.

“But the fast-paced consumer convenience (is growing) because people are impatient.”

TFI owns food delivery service Thomas Farms Kitchen, which delivers packaged food boxes to households.

The South Australian-founded company, which boasts offices in the US, China, the Netherlands, and Japan, has also expanded into online sales to capitalise on the growing e-commerce market.

Mr Thomas said TFI sold its meat products from its New Jersey headquarters through Amazon to cater to US-based customers’ demand for convenience foods.

“In Jersey, we are a mile down the road from Amazon’s biggest (distribution centre),” he said.

“If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can order a steak and we have six hours to produce that, get it to the DC and off it goes — convenience.”

Mr Thomas also backed blockchain technology as key to authenticating Australian meat products, particularly in China.

Blockchain allows consumers to authenticate a product from paddock to plate to ensure it is not counterfeit.

Mr Thomas said blockchain would stamp out meat product counterfeits, posing as Australian produced, sold in foreign countries.

“As farmers and primary producers, we are the best in the world,” he said.

“What we do have is our prominence ... we can’t have that taken away from us.

“We don’t want to waste all of our blood, sweat and tears as producers and that is why blockchain is (important).”

Since TFI was established in 1988 by Mr Thomas’ father Chris, it has grown into a global operation with more than 2000 staff.

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