Already 400 expressions of interest for new roles had been received, they told a small group of visitors getting a behind the scenes look at the operation.
The group is clearly proud of what the company has achieved so far – 10,500 farming families in the collective, 895 of them producing for Fonterra Clandeboye, 78 tankers collecting up to 12.4m litres of milk every day, enough product to fill up to 70 shipping containers daily, five boilers running at any one time, internationally accredited laboratory testing for all of the company’s South Island sites, two milk powder plants, two cheese plants (dry salt and mozzarella), two protein plants, a lactose plant and two cream products plants.
It’s all about meeting customer demand, which is currently outstripping supply.
Visitors watched a 3D fly-through of the new building before being asked to sign an intellectual property form to agree not to give away any company secrets – like how Fonterra makes mozzarella in six hours when usually it takes three months, and how each piece of mozzarella comes out exactly the same length.
Blue plastic socks and boots with steel-capped toes, fluoro jackets, safety glasses and helmets were donned and warnings given about watching one’s step on rocky ground, and not falling into drainage trenches or tripping over plumb lines.
Being close to the construction site gave an idea of the scale of the 7000-plus square metre new building.
Some of the work is subcontracted to local businesses and workshops – but the names involved are all part of the secret.
Back in the boardroom, jewellery which could catch on moving parts in the current mozzarella factory was removed and the group carefully negotiated the “red line” where they climbed into white overalls, a fresh pair of plastic socks (clear ones this time), bright blue gumboots, safety glasses again, hair nets and ear muffs.
In the packing room cheese was separated into 12kg bags, wobbled along a conveyor before a robot hand picked it up, turned it around and dropped it into boxes, which were sealed before heading off to customers.
Visitors witnessed and participated in testing the final product for chewiness, saltiness, melt, blister size and colour, run-off over the edges of pizzas, cheese flow between slices once cut, stretch and the best bit – taste.