Open Country Dairy is set to shake up the dairy industry with its first delivery of organic milk. On November 18, the first supply of organic milk will be delivered to the dairy facility for processing into organic milk powder. Its farmers have completed years of transition to become certified organic milk producers and the Awarua facility modifications for organic processing ensure a flawless FSSC22000 compliant food safety record.
Today, Awarua is New Zealand’s largest independent milk processor and the second largest exporter of whole milk powder in the world. Its whole milk powder is used in a host of applications from being re-packed into cans or pouches as milk powder to being manufactured into reconstituted milk or yoghurt.
“We’ve grown significantly since inception, and we’ve always had the same attitude within the organisation that, if we can’t add any value to the existing milk that we have it makes no sense to grow. So the focus for us is on the value drive, on how do you start generating and creating value for our partners. For us, you’ll see more diversification going forward, and I suppose that’s what keeps me excited; we keep changing as an organisation but for all the right reasons and at the right time,” said Steve Koekemoer, CEO, Open Country Dairy.
The decision to diversify into organic milk powder processing reflects the consumer change in attitude towards ‘clean’ products free from contaminants such as pesticides. Open Country became aware of the opportunity to move into organics a few years ago when the world market started to recognise its high quality of milk sourced from grass-fed animals and its very tough codes of food safety compliance.
“At the time we thought if we could do that with regular milk, why couldn’t we apply that to organic milk. We’re going to be one of the largest organic processors in New Zealand, and we’re very proud of our organic milk and our Awarua facility in the southern-most region, not only in New Zealand but in the world.”
Open Country Organic sales manager Joe Clark explained that “the global organic food market is growing by over 10 percent a year and it’s now worth NZ $150 billion globally. We are also seeing large growth in the New Zealand organic industry, largely being driven by exports. We have also noticed that in a lot of these key markets there is a growing middle-class who are wanting premium products and I think organic has a very strong proposition for those consumers. It is healthy for their families; pure has no pesticides and environmentally sustainable with a strong focus on animal welfare, which consumers can relate to.”
The business wants to ensure that this new project is a success. They have a sustainable supply of organic milk for customers and are committed to the project long term. “I often get asked ‘what is your expected success out of the organic programme’, and I always reply with 100 percent success,” added Koekemoer.