Our Heritage

Our story starts nearly two centuries ago when the first cows arrived in New Zealand. From those humble beginnings, we’ve become the world’s largest dairy exporter, wholly owned by the farmers who supply us.


New Zealand’s dairy industry started in 1814 with the first cattle imported by early European settlers. By 1846, just six years after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, the first exports began. The first dairy co-operative was created in Otago in 1871 – the first of more than 400 co-ops to be established throughout New Zealand.

Refrigeration in 1882 opened new markets to New Zealand’s agriculture industry and, as a result, substantial trade to the United Kingdom developed, with the UK becoming our largest export market until the 1970s.

Many different kinds of dairy products exported to a huge range of markets since then have changed the landscape of the industry, which eventually included major consolidation.

In 2001, Fonterra was formed to represent the interests of about 95 per cent of New Zealand’s dairy farmers – our Shareholders.

Today, we export high quality products to more than 100 countries around the globe. Fonterra is the world’s largest dairy exporter.