The New Zealand firm, which specialises in goat’s milk based nutrition products, is a subsidiary of direct selling firm New Image Group.
The latter, which sells health supplements, reported a consolidated revenue of more than $300 million in the past financial year.
According to NIG Nutritionals, an estimated 75 million servings of its products are consumed in China each year.
“Alternative milks, such as goat, have experienced meteoric growth and we see that continuing in the near future as consumers become increasingly aware of their benefits,” Guy Wills, general manager of the firm told NutraIngredients-Asia.
Its Baby Steps infant formula was in the top five imported goat’s milk formula brands in China, accounting for about 6% of all imported goat’s milk formula into the country.
With growing appeal for goat’s milk in China, Wills said that the firm had launched a range of proprietary products targeted at both children and adults.
An example is the low GI goat’s milk containing isomaltulose, a disaccharide carbohydrate that could lower blood sugar levels.
“We need a GI result of below 55 to be considered low GI and we received a result of 25, which is very low and equivalent to sour melon often used in China by those suffering from diabetes,” he said.
Other innovations surrounded the addition of clinically tested ingredients such as phosphatidylserine, collagen, dietary fibre, and probiotics into goat’s milk.
In fact, the firm has been working closely with China-based dairy firms for more than 10 years.
Some of these business partners included Chinese dairy giant Yili, China Animal Husbandry Group, and Mishi Baby & Mums.
While opportunities in China are vast, declining birth rate, changing regulations, and stiffer market competition have presented challenges for the firm.
Nonetheless, it believes that its product quality will keep it in good stead.
“The integration from grass to glass with our partner goat’s milk farms is a key advantage and benefit, for product quality and control, environmental footprint, and for our consumers.
“There are still significant opportunities for products that truly support health, wellbeing, appearance, digestion and gut health and are relevant to the needs of the changing demographics and lifestyle in China,” Wills said.
The firm recently opened its newly upgraded spray dry milk powder plant at Paerata, south of Auckland on Aug 21.
Wills said that the upgrade included a new spray dryer, in-house lab for basic product testing, R&D, a greater use of automation and 40% higher production capacity.
There is also a new packaging facility, with added canning capacity, and new retail pouch lines.
The upgrade costing $50m was officially opened by former New Zealand prime minister John Key.
At the opening ceremony, founder and chairman of New Image Group, Graeme Clegg, said that a full upgrade to the plant began on 2016, adding a larger dryer and a large-scale canning and retail pouch facility.
To satisfy Chinese regulations, both of the facilities are registered with China’s Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA).
“The source of our goat’s milk is from farms only 15 minutes from the plant, meaning full integration with the farm, collection, spray dryer and packaging plant,” Clegg added.
The Paerata plant is about to move to a 24-hour operation and is expected to employ more than 80 people.