A Canberra business has carved a niche as one of Australia’s leading producers of promotional and sports drink bottles and is now taking on the world.
It’s estimated that nearly five per cent of Australians have either purchased or obtained a product from Bottles of Australia.
The business employs 18 people and is on track to produce 1.1 million bottles this year, about 10 per cent of which will be exported to more than 20 countries after a deal was secured with international sporting giant Puma.
Company director Anton Pemmer said finance to expand overseas had come from the Australian Government’s export credit agency Efic after banks knocked him back.
Bottles of Australia in Hume will produce more than one million drink bottles this year. Photo: Rohan Thomson
“The finance covers us for multiple international orders, which we knew were coming into the system, and to roll it forward so it’s a revolving facility,” Mr Pemmer said.
“It means if your orders go from zero to a million dollars you’re able to fund that sort of growth.
“The banks would not do that.
“What I like about it is it doesn’t impact your current facility.”
Bottles of Australia director Anton Pemmer says the company is expanding into overseas markets. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Efic’s executive director for export finance, Andrew Watson, said the Canberra Business Chamber had referred Bottles of Australia to the government-owned corporation.
“Here is an Australian company with a very strong domestic business, and through that they’ve been able to secure a large contract with a major global sports brand,” he said.
“That’s a fantastic opportunity for Bottles of Australia.
“What that meant is they had to scale up both operationally and financially.”
“We can either sit here and wait for things to happen or we can make things happen.”
Mr Watson said Efic undertook commercial due diligence on all applications.
“What we often find is that successful companies growing fast sometimes have limited collateral to offer a bank, or the rate of growth is such that it may be growing faster than its balance sheet,” he said.
“Here we have an example where a good company has a contract which takes it to the next level, but often a bank can feel constrained in providing the quantum of finance required, whereas at Efic we’re often an unsecured lender and we take a true cashflow-lending perspective.
“We want to understand the working capital cycle, the contract a business is performing against and then we take a view.”
Mr Pemmer said in addition to finance, it’s important to research the market and achieve international accreditation.
“Our point of difference is not just about the quality of the bottle, it’s how quickly we can deliver, how flexible we are,” he said.
“They’re the differences we try to bring because if we’re only competing on price against a Chinese manufacturer you can’t win on that basis; you have to win in other ways.”
Mr Pemmer said Bottles of Australia was developing a new lid that’s been researched for two years with an investment of more than $250,000.
“There’s nothing like it on the market,” he said.
“It’s a valve lid which can be opened without using your teeth or hands on the nozzle.
“We’ve already had commitments from major brands to run with the new product and we’re really excited about this.”
Mr Pemmer said the business would continue to seek opportunities for development and expansion.
“We can either sit here and wait for things to happen or we can make things happen,” he said.
“We’ve spent more money and more time and effort in the past two years on R&D and design work than all the years before that.
“As an Australian exporter you can’t just think it’s all going to happen for you without an investment.
“The trick is to know what to invest in and when to cut loose.”
Mr Pemmer said there was no impediment to being a Canberra-based manufacturer.
“It adds a couple of cents to the freight cost,” he said.
“We supply nationally, so if we were in Sydney we’d still have to freight to Canberra and Melbourne.
“From an industrial design perspective and labour it’s not a problem at all.
“We work with universities and CSIRO, and we’ve got very quick access to the AIS sports science area.
“There are very few other cities where you have those opportunities to get that sort of expertise so readily and easily.”