Kiwi contract manufacturer completes multi-million-dollar renovation as ‘brand New Zealand’ maintains marketing popularity

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Alaron's Sara Ching and Cary Wernick.
Alaron's Sara Ching and Cary Wernick.

Related tags New zealand Southeast asia

New Zealand contract manufacturer Alaron has undertaken a multi-million-dollar expansion and renovation project at its Nelson site, with the firm hopeful of growth for its customers in South East Asia after China sales began to go “off the boil” due to regulatory uncertainty.

The 15-month construction process followed several years of planning and has resulted in new offices, manufacturing and warehouse space.

The firm, which employs around 80 people, undertakes contract work for a raft of major New Zealand and international supplement, dietary powder, skin care and animal health brands.

We recently visited the site ahead of the start of the Natural Products New Zealand summit, which was held in the town.

Director Carey Wernick said: ‘We have a full range of high speed and semi-automatic encapsulating machines, as well as tableting, coating, blending and liquid filling capabilities. We have also put in a new canning line to help us with dairy and Manuka honey-based powders.”

Growing interest in Manuka products has seen the firm branch out into cosmetic and therapeutic liquids and creams in recent years.

Wernick said the firm’s success had been built on customer service and an unrelenting commitment to brand New Zealand.

“Our customers want to be associated with the clean and green New Zealand brand and that is what we can offer. If they are only concerned with price, then there are plenty of other options for them elsewhere.”

Asia growth

In terms of products, popular ingredients include New Zealand greenshelled mussel powder, Manuka honey goods in either powder forms or for skin care, red deer velvet, and kiwi and grape seed extracts.

Outside of New Zealand, the company has a strong customer base in Australia, the US as well as with some of the MNCs. It is also looking towards South East Asia for additional growth, especially as the China market has slowed for New Zealand and Australian exporters in the past 12 months due to do uncertainty over cross-border e-commerce laws.

“The fact that New Zealand had first free trade agreement with China was definitely an asset and people in China are still very excited by the clean and green New Zealand image, and it is our job to maintain that,”​ added Wernick.

“However, one of the biggest features in last 12 months has been change in the China market, where it went off the boil a little bit. We are lucky because we have a diverse customer base and we deal with a large number of countries. There is still a huge demand though for natural products in China, especially from New Zealand, and we are also looking to South East Asia and working through some of the regulatory issues there.”

National rules

With regard to regulatory issues closer to home​, the company’s founder Ron Geiger is the long-standing chairman of trade group Natural Products New Zealand and is heavily involved in liaising with government about the proposed Natural Health Products bill.

“It took us a while, but we are now in the position as an industry where the government talks to us, and the media talks to us, because we did use to get ignored a bit,” ​he said.

“We had to convince people that there aren’t many billion dollar sectors in New Zealand, like we are.”

“There is now a small group of people working on the manufacturing rules around the new health bill, of which I’m one, so it’s good to be there making sure nobody is either going nuts, or even undercooking it.”

The long-awaited bill is backed by the industry​ with most firms believing it will help boost exports and strengthen the reputation of New Zealand made products.

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