New Zealand’s Lewis Road Creamery has cited its dairy quality and innovative capabilities as major reasons it is not concerned about competition from the plant-based products sector as it targets expansion into Asia.
“This is not an issue because we are focused on the high quality proteins and fats that dairy can provide,” Lewis Road Creamery General Manager Nicola O’Rourke told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“[Despite what the plant-based sector says], dairy is still one of the best sources of protein out there, giving consumers access to this [nutrition] via many touch points throughout the day too.
“These fats and proteins are very important for health, especially for growth in the younger generation, and continued growth in our premium ice-cream and yoghurt sectors shows that consumers still see a need for dairy via different sources and formats.”
She also cited innovation as a very important part of Lewis Road Creamery’s portfolio, and a major contributor to growth.
“New Zealand is definitely our home base for innovation. From [creating] new product formats in yoghurts, cheeses, ice creams and liqueurs [to] improving existing products such as increasing the creaminess of our super premium ice creams, [it is all done here],” said O’Rourke.
The company only just entered the Asian market last year with its fresh milk in Singapore, and is aiming to launch its flavoured and white milks into Shanghai later this year in September.
”We look at Shanghai as our launchpad into China, and our target for this year is very much to upscale in the Asian market.” said O’Rourke.
“The Asian market as a whole is very important to us because the consumers there are very connected [digitally], and we can have direct conversations with them.
“This is [very much how we have been communicating with customers] all along, via a non-traditional e-commerce model, getting them to love the brand and as such tell the story for our company.”
Meeting trends in dairy
In keeping with current trends in dairy, O’Rourke added that the company’s products are very much focused on high quality that can contribute to health and wellness.
“Apart from high quality milk, we also have butters which are a source of high quality fat, as many consumers today are now aware,” she said.
“This is seeing a resurgence, particularly with the rise of the keto movement, and we are seeing this reflected clearly in terms of product sales too. The APAC region in particularly is seeing more demand than supply for butter, as many consumers want to use it for baking.”
Another area of focus for Lewis Road is in indulgence, where this is achieved by using ‘only the best creams and ingredients’ to create premium flavours.
Dairy in New Zealand
Commenting on the current dairy industry in New Zealand, O’Rourke said that this is a time of ‘fears’ due to the many acquisitions and mergers taking place, for instance Fonterra’s sale of Tip Top to Froneri for US$250mn recently.
“That said, it is definitely a time of change here, but it will also be very exciting moving forward – we now have the opportunity to bring more applications to market, to show more value-add and be part of a change,” she added.
New Zealand Food Basket
O’Rourke is also the Chairman of the recently-launched New Zealand Food Basket, a coalition of New Zealand brands that recently formed a joint initiative with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba to launch the New Zealand Country Flagship Store on its website.
“The Country Flagship Store is essentially a portal for Chinese/Asian consumers to get all their [New Zealand] products in one place,” she said.
The coalition intends to first spend the next six to 12 months building up its base and logistical capabilities, before moving on to innovate new platforms for customer connection.
“Moving forward, one of our longer-term goals is to potentially create a sort of New Zealand Food Basket tourist trail that consumers could follow around the country on what would essentially be an exclusive food and beverage tour,” said O’Rourke.