Milk is the go for firm

Christchurch-based food maker and packager New Zealand Dairy Brands says just adding water to its Go Milk flavoured milk sachets should drive consumer demand for the new product.

NZDB owners Vladan Vukovic and Neil Cullen believe the two years of development of the "milk on the go" product fits in with their company's aim to be a world leader within a specialised food sector. It is already on some supermarket shelves.

The powdered milk, including chocolate, strawberry and banana flavours, has no added sugar, low fat, with water added to make the drink suitable for school children and trampers in the high country alike.

With a natural sweetener the product fitted with the fight against obesity, and had also been recognised by the Canterbury District Health Board's Diabetes Research team as suitable for use by diabetics, Vukovic said.

It is a mixture of ingredients including milk powder sourced from Synlait Milk's Dunsandel factory.

The NZDB pair became business partners by chance. They also own NZDB parent Wimpex Ltd.

Cullen answered a job advertisement four years ago by Vukovic to find help to build up his business. He had a background in finance and banking, having worked in a senior South Island role for National Bank, also having worked in Africa on a variety of development projects, one led by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.

Vukovic, a Serb, came to Christchurch about 10 years ago with very little cash in his pocket "a credit card with a $3000 limit" and worked in a variety of jobs including milking cows and as a Red Bus driver. For two seasons he worked for Synlait Milk at their Dunsandel factory helping start a packaging line.

He and his wife Natasa came to New Zealand after part of their family packaging company employing 150 staff was destroyed by a fire, a result of misfired missile during the east European crisis of the late 1990s.

In Christchurch he first established Wimpex as a small factory in Sydenham, before shifting to a leased property in Hornby. "I started actually with very limited or no capital at all. It's pretty risky but that is how business is done in Europe. I started it in my days off. I was working four days on, four days off," Vukovic said.

He tried to establish his own branded products, some of which are still being manufactured. But contract work for other large manufacturer soon became the mainstay of the business and is now 90 per cent of revenues. Contract customers include Healtheries and Tetley.

The factory, a base for 25 staff, contains 11 packaging and blending rooms, running with environment and quality controls.

The packaging lines were made in China, and the production processes world class, Cullen said. "We've got some of the most up to date, highest capacity packaging equipment in the country," Cullen said.

The factory now turns out more than 260 packaged products for the supermarket shelves, having imported or sourced raw ingredients then blending them into the retail format for about 25 customers such as Tetley's (owned by Indian conglomerate Tata Group).

"(A Tetleys Chai Latte Classic product can be) quite a complex one, in that the packaging film comes from China, the foaming agent from the Netherlands, the tea powder comes from India," Cullen said.

Wimpex manufactures some 6 million to 8 million retail units per annum for some of Australasia's known brands and had annual revenues in the order of $8 million, Vukovic said. The company had seen more than 200 per cent growth year on year for the last five years.

The three Go Milk flavours have just been released through a Christchurch distributor into New World and Pak 'n Save supermarket shelves. A shipment of Go Milk had been sent to a distributor in China and it will be exported to Australia too.

The Press