The co-operative today marked the start of the project, with Selwyn MP Hon. Amy Adams and Selwyn District Council Mayor Sam Broughton joining 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 NZ$150m (US$111.6m) two-stage project will see the first plant completed in 2018 with a second to follow in either 2019 or 2020.
Increase in demand
Fonterra’s director of global foodservice, Grant Watson said Asian consumers are developing a preference for milk-based products.
Watson said people are actively seeking more dairy in their diet, as a beverage and an ingredient.
“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,” Watson said.
He added in markets where dairy hasn’t traditionally been a staple there are fewer pre-conceived notions around how it should be eaten, leading to versatility in dairy applications.
Innovation in China
Watson said some of the most innovative dairy product development anywhere in the world is happening in China.
He cited as an example tea macchiato – which mixes tea with cream and cream cheese.
Fonterra chief operating officer - global operations, Robert Spurway, said as not all cream cheese is the same, the new technology being introducing at Darfield will give flexibility to quickly change products.
More than 30 jobs created
When complete, Fonterra Darfield will become one of the largest producers of cream cheese in New Zealand, alongside the co-operative’s Te Rapa site.
In the NZ$100m (US$74.4m) phase one of the project, which will be completed by August 2018, more than 30 jobs will be created. When operational, the plant will produce up to 24,000MT of cream cheese each year for export.
The second phase will be completed by 2019 or 2020, depending on demand, and will also produce 24,000MT annually.