The Co-operative today marked the start of the ambitious project, inviting Selwyn MP Hon. Amy Adams and Selwyn District Council Mayor Sam Broughton to join Fonterra management and staff in turning the first sod on the new build.
With cream cheese undergoing a steady surge in popularity in Asia, the $150 million two-stage project will see the first plant completed in 2018 with a second to follow in either 2019 or 2020.
The two new plants will incorporate Fonterra-first technology that will allow the firmness and consistency of the cream cheese they produce to be dialled up or down to meet customer preference.
Fonterra’s Director of Global Foodservice, Grant Watson says the investment is a timely one as more and more consumers around Asia develop a preference for milk-based products.
“What’s really promising are the trends we’re seeing in cheese, butter and UHT over the years – not just in the sale of dairy products, but how they are being consumed. Particularly as the major urban centres in China shift away from oils, people are actively seeking more dairy in their diet whether in their cooking, as a table spread or in a glass,” says Mr Watson.
“In markets like China – where dairy hasn’t traditionally been a staple – there are fewer pre-conceived notions around how it should be eaten, and with that we’re seeing remarkable versatility in their dairy applications.
“Arguably some of the most innovative dairy product development anywhere in the world is happening right now in China and, through our Anchor Food Professionals team and their engagement with our customers, we’re playing an integral role,” he says.
Dairy beverages such as tea macchiato – which mixes tea with cream and cream cheese – are evidence of a willingness to be bolder with dairy applications, says Mr Watson.
Fonterra Chief Operating Officer - Global Operations, Robert Spurway says this investment will be a significant one for the Co-operative and is a good demonstration of Fonterra’s strategy in action.
“This is not just about expanding our capability in manufacturing, it’s another marker in our strategy to continue delivering better returns to our farmers. What’s particularly exciting with this project is our ability to innovate with new technology that opens up all manner of new possibilities in some of our key markets,” says Mr Spurway.
“Projects like these are great examples of how we’re keeping pace with customer preference. Not all cream cheese is the same, and one that is used in a beverage will be quite different to one that is used in a cream cake. The new technology we’re introducing at Darfield will give us the flexibility to quickly change our products to suit that need – a real game changer.”
Once the project is complete, Fonterra Darfield will become one of the largest producers of cream cheese in New Zealand, alongside the Co-operative’s Te Rapa site, something Mr Spurway says is positive for the region.
“Canterbury is fast becoming the Co-operative’s foodservice capital of New Zealand with nearly half a billion dollars of investment in this category over the past three years.
“Globally, the foodservice industry is growing around 6 per cent every year. Expansions such as these, which are backed by customer demand, have helped Fonterra’s foodservice business triple that figure over recent years. This puts us well on track to achieve our targets of 20 per cent year on year growth in foodservice sales.”
Phase one – CC3
$100 million upgrade
Completed by August 2018
Similar scale to the new cream cheese plants recently built at Te Rapa
Up to 24,000MT of cream cheese each year for export
Introduces innovative technology
More than 30 new jobs
Up to 1,000 roles involved in the construction, planning and fit out across a wide range of industries
Phase two – CC4
$50 million upgrade
Completed by 2019 / 2020 depending on market demand
Producing up to 24,000MT each year for export
Additional staff numbers will be confirmed closer to construction
Quote from MP Hon. Amy Adams - “Fonterra’s investment in two new cream cheese plants here at Darfield is great news for Selwyn and for the Canterbury region,“ says Ms Adams.
“Not only will this investment create jobs during both the construction and operational phases, it is also an excellent example of how New Zealand companies are shifting to value-added products and using innovation to tap into emerging markets.”