Customers line up for products from new $40m Rolleston plant

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The new Rolleston UHT cream and milk plant will build on Westland's existing, shown, Hokitika site.The new Rolleston UHT cream and milk plant will build on Westland’s existing, shown, Hokitika site.
The new Rolleston UHT cream and milk plant will build on Westland’s existing, shown, Hokitika site.

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Orders are banking up for long lasting milk and cream from Westland Milk Products’ new $40 million ultra high temperature (UHT) plant in Rolleston.

The liquid milk operation is a deviation by farmer shareholders of the West Coast co-operative from exporting their main staples of powder products and butter in an attempt to smooth out the volatile markets for milk powder commodities.

The plant is due to be opened by Minister for Food Safety Jo Goodhew on Friday.

Westland chief executive Rod Quin said the commissioning of the UHT plant marked Westland’s first step into producing and exporting liquid milk in addition to its powder-based products and butter.

“This is a significant milestone in Westland’s strategy to move away from the volatile, and currently oversupplied, bulk dairy ingredients market,” Quin says. “Our focus is now on producing high-profit, added-value products for the top end of the market.”

Westland research shows that high value products are a more profitable market for its shareholders as global dairy prices are unlikely to bounce back soon for products such as bulk milk powder and are expected to continue providing poor returns.

“This is especially the case in China, which is continuing to experience growth in its middle classes,” said Quin.”These people are educated and have disposable incomes; they have high expectations around the quality, safety and health properties of dairy products they buy. Westland can meet these expectations, which means the future for these products is more secure and more likely to raise and stabilise returns to shareholders.

The UHT process gives products a long shelf life. UHT cream that will be produced at the new plant also gives Westland the capacity to sell into the Chinese foodservice and bakery market.

Chinese interest in western style foods such as bakery goods, is growing as is demand for whipping cream for a variety of bakery treats and desserts.

Quin said the co-operative had invested heavily in research for both UHT milk and cream to ensure it had the right combination of high functional performance, quality and taste.

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“Already we have had glowing reports back from China that we are performing very well in taste evaluations.”

He said Westland’s move into value-added products was adding nearly 20 cents a kilogram of milksolids to shareholder payouts.

“We are on target for that proportion to grow substantially as our recent initiatives – including the recently completed $114 million nutritionals dryer in Hokitika, and now the UHT plant in Rolleston, come into full production.”

He said the company’s added value strategy painted a more optimistic picture for shareholders than if it had remained mainly a bulk ingredients supplier.

The UHT products will be sold under the Westgold brand, alongside Westgold Butter, the champion butter at the New Zealand Champions of Cheese awards. Previously, Westgold butter was sold only overseas, but has been introduced to the domestic retail market.

Rolleston UHT plant:

– Cost $40 million.

– Ground broken March, 2015.
– Expecting to launch product in China in June.

– Milk manufacturing capacity up to 14000 litres per hour.

– Whipping cream up to 9000 litres per hour.

– Recruited 10 new staff for 39-person team.