“The USA is our biggest market,” Sue Finderup, Waitaki’s business development manager, told us. “Annually we sell approximately 1.5 times as much product into the USA as we do in any of our other key markets.”
“The ‘Made in New Zealand’ message resonates with brands in the US, as well as other countries like China, as a mark of quality, sustainability, and low environment impact, however there is a caveat,” said Finderup.
“In the USA, while we have certainly benefitted from the positive image of New Zealand as a clean green environment, there is a danger in becoming complacent about how much of an impact this really has on sales. In our traditional areas of meat and fish by-product processing especially we are known for things such as free range, grass feeding, traceability, limited use of hormones and antibiotics and sustainability and there is no doubt that these have opened the door for us on many an occasion.
“However, at the same time these ‘feel good’ factors must be backed up by sound product innovation, science and service. Without these other aspects then the ‘Made in New Zealand’ message is simply a ‘nice to have’ and loses impact. These positive images also carry over into our latest product areas of kiwifruit and blackcurrant, however again the market here is really looking for the substance behind the products.”
The company is known for its StimuCal ingredient, a concentrated source of natural calcium with bone stimulating protein, and recently added three ingredients to their portfolio:
ActiPhen freeze dried kiwifruit powder positioned for digestive health;
CassiPure anthocyanin rich blackcurrant extract positioned for eye health, cognition and immune support; and
PernaTec Oil, an omega 3 and phospholipid rich Greenshell mussel oil extract.
Greenshell mussel oil
Awareness for Greenshell (or green lipped) mussel oil – a niche product within the vast sea of omega-3 products – is good, said Finderup. While the bulk of the sales are still in the US, global sales for the product are about $20 million, said Craig McIntosh, Waitaki’s CEO.
The overall market for omega-3 supplements in the US has been flat or in decline in recent years, and some stakeholders have suggested that natural channel retail buyers are bored with fish oil. Like krill oil, the omega-3s in Greenshell mussel oil is high in phospholipids.
“While omega 3’s per se from standard fish oils have perhaps had their day in the sun, phospholipids and omega-3’s from a phospholipid source are enjoying high levels of interest based on research around superior absorbability and better resistance to oxidation and potential benefits in chronic disease related to inflammation,” said Finderup.
“Our own analysis has identified 15 different phospholipids in our product. We also have the benefit of maintaining control right from the start of the production process,” she added.
The new ingredients, launched at the recent SupplySide West show in Las Vegas, have been very well received, added Finderup. New products containing the kiwifruit extract are expected to hit retail shelves in early 2017, while products containing the blackcurrant ingredient will be later in the year.
Waitaki has been engaged in an ambitious expansion project over the last two years, which is now complete, said McIntosh. The expansion includes a new one tonne freeze dryer that adds an additional 200 MT of freeze dried material to annual production.
The company is already looking to extend this facility because of high demand.
The company also built a new custom-designed solvent extraction facility, effectively creating an entirely new business, adding high value marine and botanical extracts to its traditional product portfolio of dried meat and marine products. Investment continues with the conversion of an existing 1,100 sq m building into a GMP compliant manufacturing unit for dry production.
“Not only does the new freeze dryer increase capacity at our plant, but by dedicating this new dryer specifically to botanical products it enables greater efficiencies of production through our existing meat and marine based lines, further cementing Waitaki’s position as one of New Zealand’s leading manufacturers of high value nutraceutical ingredients,” said McIntosh.