The €55.5m factory in Dunsandel will produce infant and adult nutritional formulations, functional food ingredients and specialised milk powder products “for human health and well-being”.
But Synlait Milk marketing and communications manager Michael Wan told DairyReporter.com that the company’s initial focus would be on producing premium infant formula.
Although Synlait only employs around 104 staff, the company said its factory was the largest in the southern hemisphere, and will supply infant formula products to a range of customers worldwide.
Infant formula opportunity
With the Chinese infant formula market offering opportunities (with consumers still shunning native products after the 2008 melamine bulking scandal) Synlait identified China as its most important market.
But Wan said: “We expect that by mid-2012 we will have established our infant formula business and will be working with more than 10 customers in five countries.”
Asked how Synlait would deliver on a pledge from CEO John Penno (pictured) that the firm would rebrand itself as a “global nutrition business…differentiating it from its New Zealand and international competitors”, especially in light of larger rivals such as Fonterra, Wan said:
“Our brand is based upon delivering milk nutrition to the modern world. Our strategy focuses on producing nutritional products that consumers in the modern world demand, whereas our competitors focus on product production capability.”
Global dairy demand soars
Although Wan would not be drawn on precise plans to increase site capacity elsewhere or to build other new sites, he said: “Our immediate focus is on building our nutrition business, primarily infant formula.”
Synlait announced on November 7 that it had produced its first consumer-packaged infant formula for export to China, which will go on sale in Shanghai supermarkets next month.
Penno said at the time that the company’s new infant nutritional facility had attracted the attention of international customers, with feedback from the Anuga 2011 trade show in Cologne showing that dairy demand worldwide was soaring.
“Repositioning the Synlait brand to support the transition of the company into the global nutrition market, and our new capacity, is important for our future success,” he said.
Last year, Chinese dairy company Bright Dairy took a 51 per cent controlling stake in Synlait for NZ$82m (€45.4m) after the latter failed to secure native investment via a public offering on the New Zealand stock exchange.