Dairy Dialog podcast 125: Bord Bia, NZMP, Quantec

By Jim Cornall contact

- Last updated on GMT

Dairy Dialog podcast 125: Bord Bia, NZMP, Quantec
Dairy Dialog podcast 125: Bord Bia, NZMP, Quantec

Related tags: Bord bia, Brexit, coronavirus, COVID-19, P&g beauty business, Milk protein, Dairy, Fonterra, European union, NZMP

This week, more by good luck than good management, the podcast goes live on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, and we have two guests from Ireland on the show.

We chatted with Padraig Brennan, meat, food and beverages director at Bord Bia (the Irish food board), Lara Phillips, senior manager of Fonterra Sustainability Solutions; and from Quantec, CEO Raewyn McPhillips and founder and innovation director, Dr Rod Claycomb.

We also head over to Dublin in Ireland for our weekly look at the global dairy markets with Charlie Hyland at StoneX.

NZMP launches carbonzero organic butter

NZMP, Fonterra’s dairy ingredient and solutions brand, has launched a new carbonzero certified Organic Butter.

Debuting in North America, and available in Europe from April, NZMP said the new Organic Butter will help its customers achieve their own sustainability goals and meet consumer demand for more sustainable products, as well as signal environmental values, and grow brand preference and market share through differentiated products.

nzmp butter
Pic: Fonterra

Hans Huistra, Fonterra’s president for Europe and Africa, said, “The launch of Organic Butter in North America provides an indication of the path we’re on globally. Our European customers currently have access to our sustainability expertise and capabilities. So it’s exciting to be able to offer carbonzero certified ingredients like our NZMP Organic Butter, and further build on the value we’re offering to our customers in this space.”

According to FMCG Gurus, 72% of global consumers express an interest in brands that actively communicate achievements around sustainability, so NZMP said the introduction of carbonzero ingredients is one way its customers can leverage Fonterra’s Sustainability Solutions.

NZMP’s first certified carbonzero ingredient has been audited and verified by Toitū Envirocare, an independent certifier.

Lara Phillips, senior manager of Fonterra Sustainability Solutions, said, “Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of our time and we’re committed to finding solutions to reduce our footprint further as part of our ongoing journey in sustainability.

“To obtain carbonzero certification for an ingredient, Toitū audits and verifies the carbon emissions for that ingredient across the supply chain. We also have to demonstrate how we have reduced our emissions to date, as well as the plan we have in place to reduce our emissions further.”

Phillips said the final step in the certification is offsetting the verified carbon footprint with high quality carbon credits approved by Toitū, for example from native forest regeneration or renewable energy projects.

“By going through this process, it can help customers reduce emissions in their supply chain and enable consumers to buy products that make a difference,”​ she said.

“Achieving carbonzero certification for products like Organic Butter is a great way for us to help our customers and the environment in the short-term, while we work towards net zero in our operations.”

Could milk ingredient help fight against Covid-19?

New Zealand company Quantec said research it commissioned has found its patented New Zealand milk-derived ingredient IDP (Immune Defense Proteins) is effective at protecting cells against Covid-19.

The research, completed by an independent US laboratory, showed IDP has the ability to protect cells from Covid-19, but it may also reduce the severity of Covid-19 symptoms, a key concern particularly for sufferers of ‘long Covid.’

CEO of Quantec, Raewyn McPhillips, said the results suggest IDP could play an important role in the global struggle against the evolving virus.

“We already knew IDP offered effective barrier protection and support for the immune system, so with Covid-19 running rampant throughout the world we wanted to investigate how IDP may be able to contribute to addressing immune health concerns,”​ McPhillips said.

“With previous research under our belts showing IDP is effective at inhibiting and protecting cells against influenza A and herpes simplex, it’s exciting to see IDP could also protect against Covid-19, both in constraining the viral infection of cells and potentially reducing symptoms.”

Quantec founder and innovation director Dr Rod Claycomb said IDP is much more potent than its individual parts, such as pure lactoferrin or lactoperoxidase.

Dr Rod Claycomb and CEO Raewyn McPhillips

“IDP is a patented natural milk protein complex containing over 50 bioactive proteins, proven to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-microbial properties. The IDP protein fraction is extracted from fresh, pasteurized milk, in the same ratio created by nature to support the immune system,” ​Claycomb said.

The independent in vitro​ study compared IDP against pure lactoferrin, one of IDP’s key isolates, and the subject of current studies investigating its potential to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection or provide therapeutic relief from symptoms.

In the Covid-19 testing, IDP achieved an IC50 based on 3.5mg/ml compared to spray dried lactoferrin’s 4.5mg/ml and freeze dried lactoferrin’s 6.4mg/ml.

"This result supports other testing we have commissioned which demonstrates the efficacy of the natural IDP proteins to inhibit pathogens and support the body’s innate and adaptive immune systems,”​ Claycomb said.

While the respiratory tract is the primary portal of entry for SARS-CoV-2, gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea can also occur in Covid-19 patients.

“Ingesting IDP may help reduce gastrointestinal symptoms due to its anti-inflammatory effect on body surfaces such as the skin and lining of the GI tract, thus providing some therapeutic relief for those suffering from the virus,”​ Claycomb added.

McPhillips said following the results, the company is planning clinical trials with IDP and is actively working with commercial partners interested in creating consumer health products based on these results.

“As a milk-based functional ingredient, IDP provides a natural, safe and effective solution that is supported and backed by science.

“A principal part of our approach is working with strategic partners in key markets, who recognize this and the opportunities available to develop and commercialise products utilising the potency of IDP.”

Quantec already produces supplement ranges that feature IDP as an active ingredient, such as Milkamune, suitable for adults and children, and the skincare range Epiology that uses IDP to prevent the spread of acne-causing bacteria.

“At the heart of Quantec, we’re focused on protecting and building people’s health and wellness, and with the global pandemic we’re excited that we might play a part in a significant health crisis,”​ McPhillips said.

Heritage, innovation and quality – the perfect post-pandemic tonic for the Irish dairy industry

Last year, the Irish dairy industry navigated arguably the hardest operating climate it has experienced since WWII, with the unrelenting pandemic wreaking damage and disruption across key industries and markets.

In addition to this, the UK officially left the European Customs Union in January 2021, fundamentally changing the way the Irish dairy market trades and operates with its closest partner. In the face of this, it would be a fair assumption to make that the outlook for Irish dairy doesn’t look too rosy, but actually, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

This is according to Padraig Brennan, meat, food and beverages director at Bord Bia, the Irish food board.  

Brennan said the relationship between the UK and Ireland’s food and drink industries is deep-rooted and symbiotic.

Geographical proximity; strong cultural and social affinities; a shared language; complementary approaches to agriculture and food processing; commonalities in business, law and relationship building; the list goes on, and on.

“All these factors strengthen the bonds that bind our two nations together in a relationship that runs deeper than on a purely transactional level,”​ Brennan said.

“This can be seen by UK consumers’ affinity and trust with Irish products. When surveyed, an independent panel of UK cheddar and butter consumers, listed the Republic of Ireland (ROI) as the most trusted origin of products outside of the UK.”

Despite the challenges of the past year, the UK remained the top destination for Irish food and drink exports, accounting for 33% of the sector’s exports in 2020, worth €4.3bn ($5.1m); while Ireland remained the number one export market for UK food and drink, with an export value of €3.4bn ($4.1m) in 2020.

The headwinds buffeting the market, coupled with commodity price reductions for key exports, such as butter, impacted Ireland’s dairy exports to the UK during 2020, with the overall value falling by 13% to €831m ($992m). 

In spite of this, Brennan said, Ireland’s overall global dairy exports continued their upwards trajectory in 2020, delivering a 3% increase in value to €5.2bn ($6.2bn).

Ireland cows
Pic: Bord Bia

This figure was driven by the performance of butter, which saw export volumes increase 12%, as well as the strong pricing environment in the cheese market, ensuring exports retained their value, despite a 10% decline in volume.

“As we look ahead to the beginning of a new trading relationship between the UK and ROI, there will undoubtedly be new challenges ahead and shifts in the competitive landscape to overcome,”​ Brennan said.

“But, one thing that will remain constant is our commitment to supplying the highest quality, sustainably produced and naturally tasty dairy products. The grass-fed diet of dairy cattle has a fundamental impact on the taste profile of the milk and subsequent products that are made from it. Ireland’s rich and fertile grazing pastures, coupled with generations of experience and cutting-edge technology and insight, places it in the ideal position to produce an incredibly high-quality and consistent product.”

Since 2016, Bord Bia has made being prepared for Brexit a strategic priority in support of Irish food and drink exports.

Brennan said research conducted in 2020 for the Readiness Radar report revealed evidence of not just the preparedness of Irish businesses, but also of growing ambition. Against an uncertain backdrop, 91% of respondents indicated progress in their Brexit planning during the previous year, while 55% expressed their interest to grow sales in the UK post-Brexit.

This confidence is reflected by rising consumer confidence for Irish food and drink in the UK. Bord Bia has been measuring UK consumer sentiment since January 2019 through its Brexit Pulse research, with the latest survey (UK Consumer Tracker, Bord Bia’s Thinking House, January 2021) revealing a spike in general consumer confidence in the last quarter of 2020.

The research also indicated the affinity UK shoppers have with dairy products from Ireland, with 70% of UK Cheddar buyers admitting to missing Irish cheese if there was an increase in price or availability; while 65% of butter consumers also said they would miss Irish butter in the same circumstances.

“One of the key drivers behind UK shoppers’ trust in food and drink from ROI stems from our sustainability credentials as a nation,”​ Brennan said. 

“Against a wider backdrop of consumer concerns around animal welfare, quality and sustainability, Ireland has forged itself a world-leading position in these areas with its rigorous sustainability program, Origin Green.”

Launched in 2012, the program supports Irish farmers and producers on driving sustainable practices through a structured and measured approach.

Origin Green brings together innovation and tradition to carve out a more sustainable future for the Irish food and drink industry, Brennan said. 

To drive quality and generate data from a farm level, there is a voluntary Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS), which operates under the Origin Green framework.

Thanks to the structure of the SDAS, Bord Bia launched its Grass-Fed Standard.

The accreditation gives verified proof milk used in products and ingredients has come from grass-fed cows, and is designed to help differentiate Irish products on shelf, meeting a wider consumer demand for greater provenance and transparency.

To comply with the standard, Irish dairy herds need a diet that is a minimum of 90% grass. When milk is pooled from various different farms for processing, this figure rises to a grass-fed average of 95%. The system is designed to ensure Bord Bia can accurately quantify the amount of time Irish dairy cows have spent on pasture, which currently equates to 240 full days a year.

The Bord Bia Grass-Fed Standard model was developed by Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority - at its Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre - and will use data collected during government-approved SDAS on-farm audits to determine the grass-fed status of each participating herd.

“Adopting a strategic approach, driven by insight, allows us to continuously support our dairy industry in innovating, adapting and staying on top of the latest trends through the creation of world-leading initiatives, such as the Bord-Bia Grass-Fed Standard. While this puts us in a strong long-term position, we remain realistic about the challenges that lay ahead in the immediate future,”​ Brennan said.

From April 1, the UK government will introduce Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) controls for food and drink products imported into Great Britain. Movement of these goods will require health certification, and this will be another added cost to businesses.

“To support our businesses, Bord Bia is running a series of support programs, training and preparing Irish food, drink and horticultural producers in SPS and Customs requirements,”​ Brennan said.

The program will provide practical training to companies on the import and export requirements under the new EU-UK trading relationship. This includes customs documentation needed, guidance on TRACES NT and examples of what is needed for food and drink products subject to SPS controls.

“As we look ahead to 2021, our exporters are reporting solid order volumes, which is a direct result of the strong trading relationships nurtured over many years. All around the world consumers and customers are increasingly demanding credentials around sustainability in dairy production that Ireland is well placed to meet. With Bord Bia’s insight driven support, we remain focused on partnering with this vibrant and resilient sector to pursue global growth in a very different world,”​ Brennan concluded.

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