Revealed: The emerging food products set to propel NZ exports beyond lamb and dairy

By Lester Wan

- Last updated on GMT

New Zealand is well positioned for success with premium chocolate. ©GettyImages
New Zealand is well positioned for success with premium chocolate. ©GettyImages
New Zealand’s food exports have long been dominated by lamb and dairy, but new reports highlight the rapidly-emerging categories displaying double-digit growth rates.

The reports by The New Zealand Food and Grocery Council (FGC) identify 51 high-growth non-traditional categories with export revenue of more than NZ$10 billion, and profile 20 food and beverage categories that have high potential.

Currently, the top emerging categories are maize, cherries, mixed preserved fruit, blueberries, whole chilled salmon and avocados.

Part of New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Food and Beverage Information Project, the reports reveal strong growth and high investment potential in New Zealand’s F&B sector.

Economic Development Minister David Parker launched the reports — ‘Emerging Growth Opportunities in NZ Food & Beverage’, ‘Investment Opportunities in the NZ Chocolate Industry’, and ‘Investment Opportunities in the NZ Cherry Industry’.

“What’s particularly significant from the Emerging Growth Opportunities report is the double-digit growth and the potential shown by many non-traditional categories. These include Mānuka honey, chocolate, cherries and shellfish,”​ said Katherine Rich, chief executive of FGC.

She said that the guides are a “magnificent resource” for food companies and policy makers, and will help FGC members make critical business decisions, and inform market development and investment decisions.

Rich further stated that the Emerging Growth Opportunities report illustrates how New Zealand’s economy is continuing to diversify.

The screening process of the study identified 20 product categories with the potential to deliver significant growth. Among these, the “best” include infant formula, innovative foods, honey, chilled whole salmon, cherries, filled chocolate bars/blocks, breakfast cereal and muesli bars, and flavoured beverages.

The identified growth categories display one or more characteristics in common among: being unique (whether produced in limited amount or differentiates); counter-seasonal fresh, quality premium products; on-trend (growing premium products); and branded, status products with provenance.

Premium chocolate

Furthermore, the report on the chocolate industry states that after success in premium wine and honey exports, New Zealand is well positioned for success with premium chocolate.

New Zealand already has food firms that are successful in cocoa and chocolate products, including cacao nibs, cocoa powder, baking mixes, beverages, muesli bars, cereals, confectionery and others. 

Its success in chocolate boils down to strong “country image”,​ efficient people and systems, and its location and markets.

In 2016, chocolate bars and blocks accounted for US$22m worth of exports.

Still, the report states that New Zealand chocolate exports can further grow through premium positioning, and on the back of continued innovation and sales-and-marketing execution.

Opportunities include the growth of the Asian middle class, European competitors pricing themselves out of the market, and the increase in busy lifestyles and growth of convenience foods.

Nonetheless, there are risks or challenges to New Zealand’s chocolate industry, including competitors with lower costs and greater economies of scale, the continued consolidation of global multinationals leading to the “hollowing out” of local offices (which is both a challenge and an opportunity) and the boom/bust economic cycle as evident in China.

Currently, New Zealand has a limited number of large export categories — namely dairy, beef, lamb, seafood, apples and kiwifruit — but that is expected to quickly grow.

“The food and beverage industry is already a major contributor to the (New Zealand) economy, but there is always opportunity for growth and expansion. To do that, companies need opportunities and access to good information that reports such as these can provide,”​ said Rich.

The reports were compiled by Coriolis Research, an FGC member, with support from the MBIE, NZ Trade and Enterprise, and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

The FGC represents manufacturers and suppliers of New Zealand’s food, beverage, and grocery brands. Its members represent more than NZ$34b in domestic retail sales and NZ$28b in exports.

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