By Fiona Acheson, head of food, beverage, and consumer goods at NZTE

Covid-19’s impact on the food and beverage industry has been profound in many ways with supply chain disruption, decreased foodservice sales in many export markets, questions about the integrity of the cool chain including Nucleic Acid testing at the border and on packaging in some key markets, and the challenges of navigating New Zealand’s lockdowns and alert levels. 

In response, companies have needed to be nimble and continually innovate, which New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has recognised with a new award category in this year’s New Zealand International Business Awards, due to be held next month on February 17.  It was fantastic to see Canary Enterprises announced as a finalist in the inaugural Innovation in Response to Covid-19 category.

Canary Enterprises is a creator of a unique method of making perfectly shaped butter portions using grass-fed, premium New Zealand butter, which is widely used across the global airline, hospitality, and catering channels. With airlines grounded and hotels deserted in the face of Covid-19, its annual sales fell 40% almost overnight. The company recognised the need to identify how best to quickly recover new revenue streams and at the same time future-proof itself for a world adapting to Covid-19 and beyond. With the revival of home baking and consequent demand for home ingredients, the company re-prioritised its manufacturing processes to meet the increased demand of producing 250g blocks of butter for retailers.

At the same time, it saw an opportunity to innovate and prototype a new globally unique sustainable butter portion to create a new income stream for the business; to replace the long-standing industry standard single-use plastic butter mini-dish, seen on airlines, hotel breakfast bars and with your scones in cafes. It fast-tracked the design and development of this sustainably-packaged butter portion, called ‘Canary Squeeze’, using plant-based compostable films as opposed to fossil fuel-derived single-use plastic packaging. By implementing the new initiatives, the company quickly increased its turnover and is on track to have recovered 50% of its lost revenues. In even better news, FY22 is tracking to be a record year for Canary – a remarkable achievement in the face of extreme uncertainty and adversity.

Fiona leads NZTE’s Food and Beverage Customers team. She has held roles as NZTE regional director for Greater China, NZTE investment director on the government’s cross-agency investment taskforce, and has also been trade commissioner in Guangzhou and for Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. She has also supported leveraging activities around the NZ–China free trade agreement and led leveraging programmes around the ASEAN–Australia–NZ and Malaysia–NZ FTAs.   

The information and opinions within this column are not necessarily the views or opinions of Hot Source, NZ Food Technology, or the parent company, Hayley Media.