Proac­tively help­ing F&B ex­porters

Exporter - - COVER STORY -

An­gus Brown sketches a di­a­gram for

that shows how the New Zealand Food In­no­va­tion Net­work (NZFIN) links all of the coun­try's sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy re­sources that can sup­port food or bev­er­age com­pa­nies into ex­port mar­kets. It's an im­pres­sive draw­ing, which re­flects the net­work, in­clud­ing Cal­laghan In­no­va­tion, var­i­ous NZFIN fa­cil­i­ties, and other ca­pa­bil­ity providers. The Food­Bowl is one of those fa­cil­i­ties – a pur­pose-built pro­duc­tion plant close to Auck­land Air­port that's de­signed for short-run pro­cess­ing of prod­ucts for test­ing.

Brown is busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­ager for the Food­Bowl and NZFIN Auck­land and well-schooled on the role of the net­work in help­ing both start-up F&B businesses and es­tab­lished com­pa­nies with new prod­uct de­vel­op­ment projects gear up for ex­port. Help­ing businesses get to grips with the reg­u­la­tions in­fra­struc­ture is a ma­jor job, he says, es­pe­cially com­pli­ance with MPI stan­dards for ex­ports.

“Com­pli­ance can be a chal­lenge. For ex­am­ple, com­pa­nies may sim­ply as­sume that they can ex­port their prod­uct to a par­tic­u­lar mar­ket – but cer­tain ex­otic in­gre­di­ents may cre­ate snags in cer­tain mar­kets.”

De­vel­op­ing prod­ucts for ex­port can be a rig­or­ous and time con­sum­ing process he says, that's why the net­work is in­valu­able for link­ing firms up with ev­ery­one from in­de­pen­dent food tech­nol­o­gists to food safety con­sul­tants, con­tract man­u­fac­tur­ers and brand­ing, mar­ket­ing and pack­ag­ing spe­cial­ists.

For the Food­Bowl the early days were some­what quiet as it sought to ed­u­cate the mar­ket about its ser­vices. How­ever, an Open Day early in 2013 saw some 700 com­pa­nies tour the fa­cil­ity and word of mouth has clicked in since then. By the end of 2013 the Food­Bowl was a con­duit for some 800 com­pa­nies, with two to five com­pa­nies util­is­ing the fa­cil­ity per day. The high pres­sure pro­cess­ing tech­nol­ogy for ex­tend­ing the shelf-life of food has es­pe­cially been pop­u­lar. How­ever, the door is still open for even greater util­i­sa­tion of the Food­Bowl, says Brown.

He knows of many com­pa­nies that have made con­sid­er­able sav­ings in their path­way to mar­ket (or scal­ing up pro­duc­tion) by util­is­ing the Food­Bowl. A neu­traceu­ti­cal com­pany saved ap­prox­i­mately $1 mil­lion on new equip­ment pur­chas­ing; an in­crease of pro­duc­tion ca­pa­bil­ity of five to ten times by a chilli sauce man­u­fac­turer also meant money saved could be redi­rected into sales and mar­ket­ing; and a poul­try com­pany util­is­ing

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