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284. The Cream of the Coast

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Coop Name: Norco Co-operative Limited N° of Employees: 587
City: South Lismore N° of Members: 301
Country: Australia Year of formation: 1895
Website: http://www.norco.com.au
About this coop:

Norco is a dairy co-operative owned by our member suppliers who operate Australian dairy farms. Norco is committed to building its financial strength and stability, which includes enhancing the economic vitality and diversity of the rural and regional communities in which we operate, securing a sustainable supply chain and developing win-win partnerships in the markets that we serve.

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The Norco name derives from, and is synonymous with, the far north coast of New South Wales, where the North Coast Fresh Food and Cold Storage Co-operative began operations at Byron Bay in 1895. Soon afterwards a depot at Lismore began processing cream into butter, using the Richmond River for transportation. More factories were added, and the range of products grew to include bottled milk, ice cream, cheese and frozen foods.

Today, Norco has 282 active members on 161 dairy farms that supply quality milk to the co-operative 365 days a year. That milk is processed by Norco and then sold into the fresh drinking milk market or is value added by the co-operative, including being utilised to manufacture a range of dairy products. In return, the co-operative offers a competitive milk price and a guarantee to collect every litre produced by its members.

Norco Foods has three specific production facilities, which are ideally located to service several capital cities and ports. Milk production plants are located at Labrador in southeast Queensland and at Raleigh in northeast New South Wales. These plants specialize in the production of chilled dairy products including full cream, modified, flavoured and organic milks, creams, custards and also fruit juice. The ice cream business unit, at Lismore in New South Wales, is a contract manufacturer of a wide range of premium, super premium, light, low fat and specialty ice creams, sorbet and frozen yoghurt. Norco Foods also retails the highly regarded Nimbin Natural cheese range.

In addition to its dairy-based operations, the co-operative operates a rural retail business unit with a network of 23 rural stores located across northern New South Wales and southeast Queensland. It also has an agribusiness unit that manufactures quality stockfeed, bird seed and pet food products.

Members’ loyalty is recognised and rewarded with a suppliers’ patronage scheme operated through the rural retail and agribusiness division. As well as servicing the needs of members, the general public is able to trade at their local Norco Rural Retail store. In doing so, they also generate economic activity and wealth for the benefit of their local communities.

Norco is a unique business that not only value adds to its members’ milk, but also services its member farm base with rural supplies. This, in turn, helps to ensure that Norco’s customers, both nationally and internationally, can have confidence in the integrity of its clean and green manufactured dairy products.

Norco’s capital base, derived from its active members, exceeds $6 million and the co-operative’s annual revenue is in excess of $351 million. Norco employs approximately 600 staff who rely on Norco remaining a strong and sustainable business in regional and rural communities in northeast New South Wales and southeast Queensland.

Local communities benefit from Norco’s presence as a supportive and dynamic corporate citizen – contributing to and sponsoring a range of community events and initiatives. The co-operative also takes on an advocacy role in the interests of members when appropriate. Norco is proud that its co-operative structure has been maintained over its entire 117-year history (Norco has been doing business since 1895). It is equally proud of the value that this structure brings to its members and communities.

“We are proud of our heritage,” says chair Greg McNamara, “and passionate about our future.”

Australia IYC 2012 story from “Building a better Australia – 50+ stories of co-operation”, Focus Publications

Author of this story
Mark Myers, Co-operative Secretary
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