A family poultry business that started out in a laundry during the Second World War has taken its owners to be among the richest 25 families in Australia.

The success of the Baiada family business, Baiada Poultry, has seen its owners listed, once again, in the BRW Rich Families List, released annually by Australian business publication BRW.

Via Baiada Poultry, the family is thought to supply 35-40 percent of the Australian poultry market, with brands including Steggles and Lilydale Free Range Chicken. And according to BRW, the family is estimated to be worth AU$523 million (US$376.5 million), with Baiada Poultry having a turnover of more than AU$1.3 billion annually.

Humble beginnings

The company was founded by Celestino Baiada, who came to Australia from the Maltese island of Gozo in 1916. He and his wife first processed 30 chickens a day from their laundry during the early 1940s, but the business really got going during the 1950s with the start of operations at Pendle Hill.

The company now has broiler farms, processing plants, hatcheries and feed mills and a major market share.

Diversification beyond chicken

The poultry industry has acted as the goose that laid the golden for the Baiada family, allowing it move into other areas - although there is no talk of it being killed off any time soon. But despite the undeniable success of the family’s decision to work in and grow the chicken industry, its meat production operations may, one day, end up being just another business division.

According to BRW, over the past decade, the family has been building a substantial development business called Celestino.

Among Celestino’s operations are a huge AU$4 billion masterplanned residential and mixed use project in Sydney’s northwest called The Gables Box Hill. This is being built on former dairy land, and the project covers more than 330 hectares and will contain more than 40,000 dwellings when complete.

The family is also building the AU$2.5 billion Sydney Science Park, and has more than 8,000 housing lots in southeast Queensland.

The family is not alone in diversifying in this way, and BRW notes that 20 families on this year’s list have expanded from their initial area of operation into property development.

As far as the Baiada family is concerned, coming from a small island may well have served in demonstrating how valuable land can be and the higher returns it can offer.