Springhill farm a new range

Focus on the bigger picture, back yourself and stick to ‘the plan’. These principles have been front and centre for Ballarat food manufacturer Springhill Farm during COVID-19.

Springhill Farm General Manager Fiona Whatley with the new range.

The business has made home-style biscuits and slices since General Manager Fiona Whatley’s parents started it on their local farm in the mid-1980s, before expanding into national markets.

Operations moved to Delacombe 13 years ago, and Fiona and husband James took over management of the business a few years later.

When COVID-19 struck this year, the business was soon hit by its economic impacts, especially in tourism and hospitality.

Springhill Farm products have long been on the menus of Virgin and Qantas, while the company has a strong presence in the accommodation sector.

“It was a bit of a kick in the guts, if I’m being honest. We were hit pretty hard, like many other businesses out there,” Fiona says.

Despite these setbacks, there were some wins. The first was a trend towards supporting local manufacturing among Australian customers. The second was a brand refresh that began in 2019, and which they chose to continue through the pandemic.

“We put a call out to our customers and on our social media channels for anyone Australia-wide who wanted to help with our product development.

We were blown away with the response, and these people become our ‘tribe’.

“They helped us make the delicious flavours of our new range – we think we’ve nailed it.”

Springhill Farm

In recent months, a Victorian Government grant helped the business bring forward plans to install a new packaging room and other upgrades, allowing more room for its 52 staff to be socially distanced.

Fiona says there have been many lessons to draw from the pandemic.

“It would have been easy for us to bunker down and put all our plans on hold, however we believed we needed to back ourselves to have any chance in coming out the other end stronger than ever.”

Springhill Farm