Several years ago, northern Melbourne was facing employment challenges compounded by the cessation of manufacturing at the Ford plant and impacts on the broader supply chain, as well as a wind-down of traditional manufacturing. In response, regional partners commissioned independent and comprehensive research that identified substantial opportunities in a growth manufacturing area – food and beverage.

The Food and Beverage Growth Plan: Melbourne’s North (2014), a report aiming to increase productivity, competitiveness, collaboration and drive innovation in this key manufacturing sector, was launched by the Hon Lily D’Ambrosio MP, Minister for Industry, in April 2015. The plan identifies the potential to grow the food and beverage sector in Melbourne’s North by an extra 7000 jobs and increase turnover from $2.6 billion to $5 billion over 10 years, if all recommendations are adopted.

The key recommendation was the creation of a powerful regional industry body – a Melbourne’s North Food Group – to provide vision and leadership for the regional food and beverage sector, which comprises over 400 individual businesses. This new group builds on the foundations provided by the Plenty Food Group, which was established in 2003 and co-funded by the cities of Hume and Whittlesea.

The Melbourne’s North Food Group was established in February 2018. Business network facilitator and economic development non-profit, NORTH Link, was selected to manage the group. Funding was provided by the Victorian Government Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources and project partners from across Melbourne’s north.