New Zealand’s processed food sector is ready to support the nations recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic according to the head of food science and innovation hub, FoodHQ.

The New Zealand food industry has shown many examples of collaboration and innovation during Level 4 lockdown to overcome obstacles says FoodHQ CEO Dr Abby Thompson.

“The level of activity and enthusiasm that companies, scientists and entrepreneurs have applied to the problem of processing and supplying food has been outstanding.”

Dr Thompson says she has been in touch with numerous companies which are continuing to process and export under lockdown.

There has been changes in consumer demand with many people wanting different types of food as well as raised awareness of NZ grown and processed products.

FoodHQ CEO, Dr Abby Thompson

“There is a walnut growers cooperative for example that has seen 500% online sales growth as Kiwis eat local, rather than imported product. And I know of several ready to eat meal and frozen food companies who have experienced considerable growth in the lockdown. For example, supermarket category managers are commenting on an increase in sales of frozen quick cook treats that appeal to children.”

These changes have required a quick response from the food science sector says Dr Thompson.

A group set up by the NZ Institute of Food Science and Technology, the Foodie Volunteer Army, is providing a critical forum for food scientists and technologists to collaborate in the lockdown environment.

“The Foodie Volunteer army is enabling food businesses to get support and answers to all sorts of questions from supply chain issues and ingredient substitution to personnel management with two metre social distancing. It’s a fantastic collaboration.”

Food and beverage is NZ’s major export industry accounting for 46% of total goods and services exported, $71 billion of revenue in 2019 and 83,800 post farm gate jobs.

A 2019 Coriolis report identified the potential for the New Zealand processed food sector to support an additional 10,000 jobs, if more of the country’s primary produce was further developed and processed into added value products.