A Case Study in Leveraging Diversity

August 29, 2022 | Maureen Frank

I want to share with you a true story of how leveraging diversity and inclusion built a multimillion-dollar ROI.

It started with an ugly carrot.

And it’s a big success solution stemming from the discovery of an underutilised resource in the business: the farmers’ wives.

You can see the original story over on ABC Landline (published in 2016).

The background

Waste is a persistent problem for vegetable growers. Take carrots – even with a good crop, 10 per cent won’t make it out of the paddock or the packing shed and into a bag.

There used to be more alternative markets for what we now call ‘ugly veg’. But the tight specifications now imposed by retailers make for a lot of waste.

Growers say that it’s not uncommon for the bottom 15 to 25 or 30 per cent of your crop at times to get the chop. When that happens, it eats into the crop’s profitability.

The seconds are sold for pet food, donated to charity or fed to cattle. The cattle might love them, but as a stock feed, carrots are worth just $50 a tonne – a poor return for produce, much of which is fit for human consumption.

With rising costs, the co-owner of a large agricultural business, Kalfresh, decided to go to the US in search of ideas and answers.

The trip was worth it, for Richard Gorman returned with big ideas which led to a change in management culture, a radical new hiring philosophy and a multimillion-dollar spend on product development to target new high-value markets.

This leveraging diversity success story came down to two simple questions

The first: did Kalfresh consider the views of its mainly women customers? The answer was a sheepish no.

And the second: did the company have a diverse management team? Another no. It was clear Kalfresh had a bloke problem.

Richard reflected: ‘Our management team: all men. Our board: all men. You know, anyone who had any say in anything was all men.’

To address the diversity deficit, Richard did a skills audit of the women married to the company’s managers and its contract growers.

Richard said to his wife, “You know, it’s amazing, all these smart women I have around me that actually know what products we should have.” Five of the wives had decades of experience in a range of fields which the company could use. Richard asked them if they’d team up to solve the waste problem.

Richard’s wife, Alice Gorman said: ‘I call it Richard’s epiphany moment!’

After some market research, they proposed value-adding the waste to target the booming preprepared vegetable market.

They realised that 15 per cent of Australians buy a ready-to-go meal twice a week. Essentially these buyers use the supermarket as their fridge. They don’t like waste, so they buy smaller amounts and often they’re time-poor, so they are looking for an easy but healthy option. The farmers wives were able to tap into all of those trends.

The solution to Kalfresh’s bloke problem worked. The ‘Just Veg’ range is now available nationally and about half of the waste carrots are now being pre-cut and bagged. Sales are growing, and most importantly, growers are getting more for their carrots.

From the paltry $50 a tonne as stock feed, the value-added seconds are worth an incredible $5,000 a tonne – a 100-fold increase in value and worth even more than the perfect whole carrots which end up in a bag.

Are you leveraging diversity that exists within your organisation?

As we always say at Emberin, its not just about a tokenistic diversity target which adds more women or others who fit into diversity categories: the key to success is the inclusion of those different views even when those views may really challenge the thinking of those who have been around for a long time.

Is it time to empower your leaders to leverage diversity and become more inclusive?

Take our assessment here to determine if our inclusive leadership program is for you.

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