Hectors farewell Mundella

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Peter Hector and his son Mark.
Camera IconPeter Hector and his son Mark. Credit: Astrid Volzke/The West Australian

Peter and Anne Hector are setting sail with a sense of pride 40 years after putting Mundella on course to become one of WA's most successful food businesses.

The dairy business they founded in 1974 now employs about 50 people, dominates industry awards and earns acclaim for the health benefits of its yoghurt and other products.

In their first interview since the recent sale of Mundella to Manassen Foods, the Hectors yesterday told _WestBusiness _they were confident Mundella's reputation for quality would continue to grow. They sold the Mundijong business to Manassen based on commitments to retain staff and local milk suppliers.

"It is made in WA by West Australians with WA milk and we are very proud of that," Anne said.

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The Hectors believe the time is right to move on with Peter turning 71 and Anne 70 this year, and their two children - Mark and Sara - pursuing successful careers and raising their own families.

Qube Property Group managing director Mark said his parents were bowing out with the business safe in the hands of chief executive David Day, who had played a key role in its success since 2006.

"The three of them had a passion for producing premium products and finding new markets for them," Mark said.

The Hectors opened up about their decision to sell as Canadian dairy giant Saputo won control of takeover target Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory.

Saputo revealed yesterday that it held 52.702 per cent of WCB shares, an announcement that left rival suitor and 17.7 per cent stakeholder Murray Goulburn weighing its options.

The Hectors are not surprised by the interest in Australian dairy assets and believe the industry has a bright future based on the injection of capital.

They believe top-end demand in Asia will drive export opportunities in the same way Mundella's reputation for quality opened the doors of supermarket chains in Australia.

"Because we were judged the premium yoghurt in Australia (Mundella was named Australian Grand Dairy Champion Yoghurt five times from 2007 to 2012) we were able to go to supermarkets and say this is the best product available," Peter said.

"We knew we couldn't compete with the mass producers so we became the Rolls Royce."

Asked if he would miss the dairy business after lifetime of involvement, Peter said: "No. I played golf at 6.30am this morning and tennis at 10. I can do these things now.

"We have a lovely yacht so we'll go sailing and we still have the farm."

The Hectors' friends said they were mad when they purchased their Mundijong dairy farm from the Jones brothers in 1971.

"I left school at 16 and became dairy farmer. That is what you did back then," he said.

"We married in 1966, had two children and moved from my parents' farm when this opportunity came up.

"My mates said you are mad. They said it is too big and you won't be able to afford it, but we had an aim in life."

They had the biggest whole milk quota in WA, working with four other families to produce about 520 gallons a day.

The desire to grow the business and to make use of the milk they produced over and above the quota inspired them to learn how to produce cheese and Mundella was born, with the original staff including the wives of the other dairy farmers.

The Hectors will continue to live on the farm across the road from the Mundella factory and they will keep about 250 dairy cattle on their property.

The price of the sale to Manassen, which is controlled by Chinese conglomerate Bright Foods, has not been disclosed.

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