Otago Daily Times

His­tory un­der­pins in­fant for­mula op­er­a­tion

CLYDEVALE French food and drink giant Danone en­joys closer links to New Zealand — and par­tic­u­larly the deep South — than might at first be ap­par­ent. Richard Dav­i­son finds out more about the com­pany’s plans for its Clydevale, South Otago, op­er­a­tion as it i

- Richard.dav­i­son@odt.co.nz Business · Barcelona · Spain · Barcelona · New Zealand · Royal Society · Dunedin · Otago · Balclutha · South Island · Tahakopa · Karitane · Groupe Danone · Rexall Sundown

DANONE, founded in Barcelona, Spain in 1919 by Isaac Carasso, and per­haps best known for dom­i­nat­ing the yo­ghurt and dairy food mar­kets in Europe, is bet­ter known do­mes­ti­cally for its foothold in the in­fant for­mula mar­ket.

Brands such as Ap­tamil and Kari­care are fa­mil­iar names to many a Kiwi mum, and the lat­ter brand also has a close his­tor­i­cal as­so­ci­a­tion with a key New Zealand iden­tity.

New Ply­mouth­born Sir Truby King was a noted in­no­va­tor in many ar­eas and, dur­ing the early 1900s, ran a dairy farm and log­ging op­er­a­tion in re­mote Catlins ham­let Ta­hakopa.

Also a trained physi­cian, dur­ing the same pe­riod Sir

Truby de­vel­oped an interest in in­fant nu­tri­tion.

At a time when there was no help for moth­ers un­able to breast­feed, Sir Truby was con­vinced at least half of baby deaths oc­cur­ring in the first year of life were pre­ventable, if this could be ad­dressed.

In 1907, he founded the Royal So­ci­ety for the Health of Women and Chil­dren in Dunedin — a later evo­lu­tion of which be­came Plun­ket.

Its motto was ‘‘breast fed is best fed’’ but, ac­knowl­edg­ing that was not al­ways pos­si­ble, Sir Truby be­gan to open clin­ics and ex­per­i­ment with milk for­mula.

‘‘Kar­i­tane’’ was born, named after the Otago town where Sir Truby and his wife first pro­vided for­mula to mal­nour­ished ba­bies.

In 1927, un­der his guid­ance, the Kar­i­tane Prod­ucts So­ci­ety de­vel­oped its first range of milks.

Fast for­ward to 2007, and Danone ac­quired in­fant for­mula pro­ducer Nu­tri­cia, which had de­vel­oped his­toric suc­ces­sor the Kari­care brand in 1996, and went on to take over Sutton Group’s milk pow­der plant in Clydevale, near Bal­clutha, in 2014.

Since that time, milk pow­der from the plant — which sits a mere 50km north of Sir Truby’s original Catlins dairy farm — has been used to make Kari­care and other Danone Nu­tri­cia brands for do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional mar­kets, mainly in the Asi­aPa­cific re­gion.

The neat­ness of the cir­cu­lar con­nec­tion has not been not lost on Danone Nu­tri­cia op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor Leon Fung.

He said the com­pany was look­ing for­ward to help­ing fund a new her­itage track to a his­toric bridge frag­ment, sited near Sir

Truby’s original farm.

‘‘We’re ex­cited to sup­port the his­tory and her­itage of the area.

‘‘Sir Truby was a key fig­ure in im­prov­ing in­fant nu­tri­tion, and lends a name to our Kari­care brand, so it’s an im­por­tant link back into the lo­cal area and his­tory for us.’’

The 500m river­side track is ex­pected to open in Novem­ber,

and will have in­for­ma­tion pan­els pro­vided by Danone.

Mr Fung was in Clydevale last week over­see­ing progress on an in­no­va­tive new biomass boiler plant for the fac­tory.

He said the com­pany ex­pected the plant to re­duce the fac­tory’s car­bon emis­sions by 95% when it came on­line late next year.

Adding to the en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fit, the new plant would use waste wood­chip, rather than lpg, to fuel its milk­dry­ing boil­ers.

‘‘The new plant will de­liver sus­tain­able en­ergy for us here in Clydevale, as part of Danone’s jour­ney to what we call triplezero. We’re aim­ing for zero water wastage, zero net car­bon emis­sions and zero waste by 2030.’’

Wood­chips from the South Is­land’s forestry and lum­ber in­dus­tries would fuel the plant, min­imis­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact, he said.

Along­side mul­ti­ple short­term jobs cre­ated dur­ing con­struc­tion of the $30 mil­lion plant, its longer­term op­er­a­tion would re­quire the cre­ation of a fur­ther 10 or more per­ma­nent roles.

This would be on top of more than 60 ad­di­tional staff added to the main plant ros­ter — at present a to­tal of 125 — since Danone’s takeover in 2014.

The in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture and peo­ple was cen­tral to the com­pany’s strate­gic am­bi­tions for New Zealand into the com­ing cen­tury — plans which had been only mod­er­ately af­fected by the ef­fects of the global Covid­19 pan­demic, he said.

‘‘We’re com­mit­ted to the long term here.

‘‘In­clud­ing this project, Danone has in­vested

$150 mil­lion in its six New Zealand sites dur­ing the past five years, and we’ll be con­tin­u­ing to look at other op­por­tu­ni­ties for ex­pan­sion as the mar­ket de­mands.

‘‘Covid­19 has cre­ated some unique chal­lenges for us, as for ev­ery­one world­wide but, in gen­eral, we re­main on track, and re­main op­ti­mistic for the fu­ture.’’

De­spite a well­pub­li­cised job sur­plus in South Otago dur­ing re­cent years, Mr Fung said Danone had not strug­gled to em­ploy suit­able high­cal­i­bre staff for Clydevale, and churn was low.

‘‘We have a range of pro­grammes in place to at­tract and re­tain the staff we need to op­er­ate a com­plex plant like Clydevale, and main­tain the para­mount qual­ity and safety stan­dards we de­mand in our prod­ucts.

‘‘Those range from ju­nior man­age­ment pro­grammes to at­tract the bright­est grad­u­ates, to tem­po­rary as­sign­ment of tal­ented em­ploy­ees from our global net­work, help­ing in­vest in and up­skill lo­cal work­forces.’’

The com­pany had found op­er­at­ing in South Otago un­prob­lem­atic, and it looked for­ward to prop­a­gat­ing its links with Sir Truby King’s milk pow­der heart­land ‘‘long into the fu­ture’’, he said.

‘‘We’ve en­joyed very good sup­port from the lo­cal coun­cil, and the lo­ca­tion is ideal.

‘‘Grass­fed milk has high ap­peal for our cus­tomers, so we’re well placed to take ad­van­tage of the best of ‘clean, green’ New Zealand pri­mary pro­duc­tion here.

‘‘Quite sim­ply, it’s a good fit.’’

 ??  ?? Ru­ral idyll . . . Danone’s Clydevale milk pow­der plant sits in rolling dairy pas­ture about 23km from Bal­clutha in South Otago.
Ru­ral idyll . . . Danone’s Clydevale milk pow­der plant sits in rolling dairy pas­ture about 23km from Bal­clutha in South Otago.
 ??  ?? Green en­ergy . . . The biomass project con­struc­tion site ad­join­ing Danone’s Clydevale milk pow­der plant.
Green en­ergy . . . The biomass project con­struc­tion site ad­join­ing Danone’s Clydevale milk pow­der plant.
 ??  ?? Baby milk . . . Danone Nu­tri­cia’s range of in­fant for­mula brands in­cludes Ap­tamil and Kari­care.
Baby milk . . . Danone Nu­tri­cia’s range of in­fant for­mula brands in­cludes Ap­tamil and Kari­care.
 ??  ?? In­dus­tri­ous . . . Danone Nu­tri­cia NZ’s Clydevale plant.
In­dus­tri­ous . . . Danone Nu­tri­cia NZ’s Clydevale plant.
 ??  ?? Hy­giene para­mount . . . A driver cleans a milk de­liv­ery unit while op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor Leon Fung in­spects the site.
Hy­giene para­mount . . . A driver cleans a milk de­liv­ery unit while op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor Leon Fung in­spects the site.
 ?? PHO­TOS: RICHARD DAV­I­SON ?? Ex­pan­sion . . . Danone Nu­tri­cia NZ op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor Leon Fung at the com­pany’s Clydevale, South Otago, plant this week.
PHO­TOS: RICHARD DAV­I­SON Ex­pan­sion . . . Danone Nu­tri­cia NZ op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor Leon Fung at the com­pany’s Clydevale, South Otago, plant this week.
 ??  ?? Story be­gins . . . Danone Nu­tri­cia ac­quired its Clydevale plant in 2014.
Story be­gins . . . Danone Nu­tri­cia ac­quired its Clydevale plant in 2014.
 ??  ?? Equip­ment . . . A milk pow­der sifter at the plant.
Equip­ment . . . A milk pow­der sifter at the plant.
 ??  ?? Work in progress . . . Con­struc­tion has be­gun on a new biomass boiler plant at Danone’s Clydevale plant.
Work in progress . . . Con­struc­tion has be­gun on a new biomass boiler plant at Danone’s Clydevale plant.
 ??  ?? Tri­colour . . . Twin flags in the Clydevale plant’s re­cep­tion area cel­e­brate a suc­cess­ful French­New Zealand col­lab­o­ra­tion.
Tri­colour . . . Twin flags in the Clydevale plant’s re­cep­tion area cel­e­brate a suc­cess­ful French­New Zealand col­lab­o­ra­tion.

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