Agricultural fund Southern Pastures started the three-year incremental buyout deal in 2017 when it purchased a 25 per cent stake in Lewis Road Creamery.
Southern Pastures, an ethical dairy investor, owns 20 dairy farms in south Waikato and Canterbury that produce milk under an independently certified programme that includes sustainable production of GMO-free milk from grass-fed, free-range cows, climate-change mitigation practices and animal welfare.
Lewis Road Creamery general manager Nicola O’Rourke said the buyout was always part of the company’s growth plan, which was mainly directed at expanding its export market.
O’Rouke said under the new ownership Lewis Road Creamery could source dairy from Southern Pastures to bring greater transparency in its supply chain.
Until now Lewis Road Creamery had only been using Southern Pastures for its butter exports.
O’Rourke would continue to manage the day-to-day running of the business.
Lewis Road Creamery founder Peter Cullinane said he was stepping down from the business, which started with a simple idea at his kitchen table.
“To now see the brand mature safely in the hands of investors who are farmers of such integrity and quality is a fantastic conclusion,” Cullinane said.
Lewis Road Creamery’s grass-fed butter is sold in Whole Foods and other stores across the United States, as well as across Australia through Woolworths.
O’Rourke said the company launched in China last year and was continuing to grow its international markets.
Southern Pastures executive chairman Prem Maan said the fund had a long-term vision to produce carbon-neutral dairy in New Zealand.
“We’re convinced that farming can be a powerful tool for environmental good in addition to providing economic returns,” Maan said.
“Sustainability has always been our mission. It’s good for the environment but also for long-term productivity,” he said.
Southern Pastures had introduced dung beetles, which help sequester CO2 in deep soil, at one farm as a trial and planned to introduce the insects to all its other Waikato farms.
“Soil can hold up to twice the amount of CO2 that air and plants can. We’re always looking at innovative ways to become more sustainable, we’re not there yet, but are working towards becoming carbon neutral.”
The board of Southern Pastures includes former All Black Captain Graham Mourie, Phillip Wight, and Taari Nicholas (Tauranga-Moana, Ngā Puhi, Taranaki Whānui, Ngāti Hauā).
Maan said Lewis Road Creamery would grow its export markets in the United States, Australia and Canada by introducing protein products in addition to its premium butter.