Welcome to the Centre: NIG Nutritionals, Synlait, and Westland Milk Products


Director Dr Catherine McLeod is pleased to welcome three new members to the Centre. NIG Nutritionals, Synlait and Westland Milk Products have in common a strong focus on science and innovation, a desire to demonstrate their commitment to the highest food safety standards, and learn about new technologies such as whole genome sequencing.   

 

NIG Nutritionals 
 
NIG Nutritionals is part of New Image Group. The venture is the dream-come-true of former sheep farmer Graeme Clegg, who was inspired to found the company by the tragic early deaths from cancer of his parents and brother. Their loss got him interested in nutrition, and in particular colostrum-based health products. The Group is an acknowledged leader in this fast-developing field, especially now due to the colostrum’s antiviral properties and antibodies. 

The Group has grown considerably over the past 35 years. It has expanded to include goats’ milk, which has a nutrition profile similar to human milk, is very digestible, with a relatively high A2 component. The ‘farm to fork’ company produces a variety of niche goat milk powders for infants and adults at its Paerata factory, 50km south of Auckland city, near to its milk supply partners. NIG Nutritionals works closely with its sister company New Image International to manufacture innovative colostrum-based health products. Colostrum is packed with the nutrients and compounds that set up newborns’ immune systems and get them off to a good start.  

NIG Nutritionals exports to China, Southeast Asia (Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia), Middle East (Egypt) and Africa. Experienced Compliance and Regulatory Manager, Catherine Abrahall, says that they currently employ ~180 staff, and are aiming to steadily expand the number of goat milk partners and their product portfolio, and to diversify into new markets. 

Says Catherine, “We have built a reputation for being innovative, nimble and an efficient contract manufacturing partner for major brands. Our dedicated team of scientific, quality, nutritional and technical staff are investigating new technologies such as whole genome sequencing. Through membership of the Centre, we want to continually improve our knowledge of food safety hazards, including those that may be associated with substances added to food.”

 

Synlait
  
Synlait produces a range of added-value milk powders and nutritional products, such as retail-ready infant formula. It exports to more than 50 countries and operates in eight locations in New Zealand and China, employing over 1,000 employees and 200 milk suppliers.

In 2019, it began manufacturing fresh milk and cream as part of its Everyday Dairy strategy. Talbot Forest Cheese joined Synlait in August 2019, followed by Dairyworks in April 2020, which expanded Synlait’s product range further to cheese and yoghurt.

Dr Suzan Horst, who formerly worked for FrieslandCampina, a major dairy company headquartered in the Netherlands, now leads a team of 150 food quality, regulatory and laboratory staff at Synlait. 

Suzan says the decision to join the Centre was easy because food safety is “part of Synlait’s DNA – it is simply the most important part of our business and one of the main drivers for mothers buying infant nutrition.  

“We are manufacturing food for the world’s most vulnerable consumers. Our milk powder is often the only nutrition newborn babies are getting, so it must be made to the highest standard. We put a lot of effort into getting our recipes and manufacturing methods just right.” 

“Our large laboratory team gives us extra assurance, both during manufacturing and by testing raw materials and final products. Infant formula is tested for more than 75 elements to ensure it includes all it has to, and that it does not contain anything that can harm our little consumers. We want to stay abreast of the latest science and have a reliable source of experts through the Centre.”

“Covid-19 has created challenges, with social distancing requirements in our facilities and laboratory and the need to keep shifts apart, but our team responded well and we felt privileged to operate as an essential service during New Zealand’s lockdowns.”  

 

Westland Milk Products
  
Westland Milk Products, as its name implies, processes milk from over 400 dairy farms on the West Coast, from Karamea to Haast. Westland’s processing plant in Hokitika is the largest employer on the Coast, providing jobs for over 530 locals. Westland produces a whole range of products from infant formula to various bioactives (lactoferrin, colostrum), and sundry food ingredients. The company also has some Canterbury milk suppliers and a facility in Rolleston which makes long life UHT milks.

Annette Gane, General Manager of Quality and Innovation joined the company three years ago. She has more than 25 years’ experience in dairy industry food safety and quality.  

She says, “Like all dairy companies we are focused on quality. We have been watching the work of the Centre for a while, and think they are doing a fantastic job bringing the dairy industry together to research common food safety aspects. We can learn from each other. We’re excited to be part of it, and feel we have something to contribute. Our owners are extremely supportive of us becoming members.”

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