By NZFIN’s FoodWaikato business development manager, Craig Hoare 




We have long been mythologised as a ‘land of milk and honey,’ a promised land of natural abundance and boundless opportunity. When it comes to milk, this analogy is fitting. Innovation and production in milk in all forms is a fast-moving, ever-changing landscape.

Fresh milk, dried milk, alternative milks, lactose-free milk, UHT milks, milk from avocados, peas, oats, squash; then we add in the animal milks – deer, goat, sheep, oh and let’s not forget the big old bovine. While it might have been the starting point of our milk focused industry, the innovation has gone wide and deep in recent years, with many more businesses working with NZFIN, and other industry experts to develop processes, formulations, and products.

Hamilton’s FoodWaikato is home to New Zealand’s only open-access large spray dyer. In the food innovation network, both FoodSouth in Canterbury (being commissioned now) and FoodPilot based at Massey University have smaller dryers which will help other innovators to develop their ideas.

FoodWaikato is the only plant in the country currently drying sheep milk powder and since 2015, its supported ongoing research and development and has moved from processing a few hundred kilograms totalling less than 100 tonnes to more than 500 metric tonnes of powder this season (ended June 2021.) Growth is expected to increase by 500 tonnes each year for the next few seasons. The goal is to have a successful $300 million new export sector by the year 2030. It’s estimated that exports of sheep milk products from this dryer exceed $15 million in the last year.

Sheep milk powder is a small but growing part of the world’s milk powder supply. The product offers several benefits over regular cow milk. The product has been shown to be gentler on the stomach and easier to digest than cow’s milk. The product is naturally A2, and contains more of some good fats than other types of milk

But it does not stop at sheep milk, goat milk, while already having strong markets with strong volumes globally, is tipped to become even more popular as China opens up registrations for more of this category in the coming years.

Watch this space as more of that abundance and opportunity around milk opens up.

Craig Hoare is FoodWaikato’s business development manager and an industry expert in dairy technology and milk manufacturing. With 25-plus years in dairy manufacturing operations and management, quality improvement, innovation and project management, Hoare is a major enabler in the development of milk (and other) industries. Additionally, he works with Waikato food innovators on business issues, problem-solving, improving product offerings, overcoming technical problems, and, in general, achieving growth.

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.