Executive chair of Bega Cheese Barry Irvin AM may have taken leave from the company to focus on his health, but his contribution to the dairy industry is still being recognised.
On Wednesday night, July 10, he was 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 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.
Mr Davey told the gathering 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.
Mr Irvin 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, the company has domestic and international sales of more than $1.2billion, according to a citation accompanying the award.
The company produces approximately 230,000tonnes 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, the company added more than 200 staff and introduced new skills including significant capability in branded sales and consumer marketing.
According to Dairy Connect, Mr Irvin'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," it said in a statement.
"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."
The news comes after the announcement from earlier this week that Mr Irvin is extending his leave from the company by six months to undergo cancer treatment.
In a letter to suppliers in May, Mr Irvin reinforced the need for everyone to undergo regular medical checkups.
"Like many people, sometimes I get my priorities wrong and focus too much on work and not enough on my health," he said in the letter.