‘Dairy legend’ Barry Irvin wins top industry award

Executive Chair of Bega Cheese, Barry Irvin AM, was tonight awarded the University of Sydney’s Dairy Research Foundation (DRF) 2019 Dairy Science Award at a major industry symposium at Bega.

The DRF Dairy Science Award is sponsored by leading industry advocacy group Dairy Connect whose chair George Davey AM presented the award to Bega Cheese senior executive Roger Went, who was standing in for Mr Irvin.

 George Davey told the gathering that it was critical to publicly salute the vision and tremendous drive that had created a billion dollar international food production, processing and distribution business from what were very humble regional beginnings on the NSW south coast.

Barry had enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the Australian dairy industry, most particularly during his 20 years as executive chair of Bega Cheese.

Barry led the company through the tumultuous and challenging post dairy deregulation period in Australia after 1999.

Under his leadership, Bega has been transformed from a company on a single manufacturing site, producing 3500 tonnes of cheddar for sale on the domestic market annually and employing around 80 people.

Today, Bega has domestic and international sales of more than AU$1.2 billion, according to a citation accompanying the award.

The company produces approximately 230,000 tonnes of cheese, milk powders, infant formula and nutritional products, exporting to more than 40 countries and employing around 2000 people.

In 2017, Bega Cheese acquired the Mondelez Australian Grocery Business, bringing home Vegemite and adding peanut butter, salad dressing, dips and sauces to the Bega Cheese portfolio.

As part of that acquisition, Bega Cheese added more than 200 staff and introduced new skills including significant capability in branded sales and consumer marketing.

Barry's leadership was a case study in successful regional development and enhancement of community wealth and pride.

His contributions and performance have been recognised in other sectors, in particular, being made a member of the Order of Australia for his services to the dairy industry and to children with disabilities.

He has also been named NAB Monash University Agribusiness Leader of the Year and Rabobank Agribusiness Leader of the Year.

He is an inspiration and role model for aspiring industry leaders and was regularly invited to share his story at national and international forums, including two invitations to participate in the International Dairy Federation's World Dairy Summit Global Leaders' Forum.

Barry's outstanding contribution to the growth and development and the sustainability of the Australian dairy industry makes him a worthy recipient of the Dairy Research Foundation's 2019 Dairy Science Award.