New spray dryer to boost sheep milk industry

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Stuart Gordon says the sheep milk industry is expected to double in size by 2021.

Stuart Gordon says the sheep milk industry is expected to double in size by 2021.

With the sheep milk industry set for rapid growth, a second spray dryer will be built at Waikato Innovation Park in Hamilton.

It will significantly boost nutritional spray drying capacity at the Park, adding about 150,000 litres a day to the existing 65,000 daily at the plant operated by Food Waikato.

Food Waikato has invested in a new company, Melody Dairies Ltd Partnership, whose four investment partners will jointly finance and build the second spray dryer.

Food Waikato chief executive Stuart Gordon said the sheep milk industry was expected to double in size by the year 2021, and the new dryer will be in demand. It will be managed by Food Waikato, also known as New Zealand Food Innovation Waikato.

The new $50 million industrial spray dryer will be built alongside the existing dryer and is projected to deliver $129 million in exports a year, with Asia as the primary market.

The existing open access development dryer, opened in 2012, is running at capacity. It had 300 days of production for the year to June 2018, producing $51 million in export product for the year.

“This is an exciting moment for the growth of the sheep milk industry, and we are proud to be part of that growth,” said Mr Gordon.

He said that sheep milk had “three key points of difference” which was helping to drive its commercial and export appeal. “There is emerging evidence of a lower environmental footprint than bovine dairy; there is evidence that sheep’s milk is more easily digested than cow’s milk; and it has a great taste,” said Gordon.

The existing dryer will continue to be available to develop new businesses and products, with increased capacity available through transfer of some clients to the new dryer, due to Food Waikato’s 10 per cent ownership of capacity in it.

The other three Melody Dairies partners are Nu-Mega Ingredients (NZ) Ltd, with a 35 percent stake in Melody Dairies; Landcorp Farming Limited, with a 35 percent in the partnership; and Dairy Nutraceuticals Limited, with a 20 percent share.

Nu-Mega is owned by Clover Corporation Ltd, an Australian company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. It is known for its range of patented micro-encapsulated products containing omega three oils, created through the spray drying process, used in the manufacture of high-quality infant formula.

“We are delighted to attract an investor of this calibre who has leading-edge, patent technology in the specialist ingredients area,” says Stuart.

Clover Corporation has been a customer of Food Waikato since 2014, regularly using the first spray dryer built at the Park.

Clover Corporation’s chief executive and managing director, Peter Davey, said its investment in Food Waikato will help the company meet the fast-growing demand for its products from both the infant formula and functional food markets. The partnership allows Clover use of the facility for spray drying its products.

The investment from other partners, Landcorp and Dairy Nutraceuticals (DNL), is also significant for Food Waikato.

“It’s a mega coup for us as Landcorp implement their Pāmu Farms of New Zealand brand strategy, in particular their joint venture with Spring Sheep Milk Company,”
Stuart said.

Pāmu is the brand name for the government State-Owned Enterprise Landcorp Farming, which owns a nationwide portfolio of farms including sheep farms. They are partners in Spring Sheep Milk Company, a boutique nutrition company which creates and exports high-value branded nutrition food products made from sheep milk.

“Dairy Nutraceuticals Ltd have just built a state-of-the-art blending and packing plant in Auckland, and they also lead the way in technology and innovation, so it’s an ideal partnership.”

Established in 2016, DNL is a New Zealand-based dairy processing and nutritional food manufacturer.

He was proud of the work that Food Waikato had already achieved for the industry.

“The Food Waikato plant has become a centre of excellence for the industry, and we have supported many companies with their product development to take high-quality New Zealand food innovations to a global market,” Stuart said.

The new dryer will be designed and built by Waikato Innovation Park tenant company Tetra Pak, and construction is set to begin late this year. Stuart said the spray dryer will be up and running by December 2019.

Once completed it is expected employment at the plant will grow from 17 to 35 staff.

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