Chinese ambassador talks up sheep milk infant formula during Southland visit

Blue River general manager Phil Neylon, from left, founder Keith Neylon, Chinese Ambassador Wang Lutong and Blue River ...
Robyn Edie

Blue River general manager Phil Neylon, from left, founder Keith Neylon, Chinese Ambassador Wang Lutong and Blue River vice-president Wei Li at the Invercargill sheep milk plant.

Premium quality sheep milk infant formula is likely to be a big hit in China, Chinese Ambassador Wang Lutong said during his first visit to Southland on Thursday.

In February, Invercargill sheep milk company Blue River Dairy was sold to Chinese company Blueriver Nutrition HK. It new owners said the Nith St plant would received $40 million in new development with second drier likely to be added. Prior to the sales, the company had been through a tough nine months after rule changes in May 2014 created problems certifying infant formula sold in China.

On Thursday, Lutong toured the plant and was updated on the company's progress as it worked towards regaining its certification, and also heard about its plans increase sales of premium sheep milk infant formula to China.

Blue River general manager Phil Neylon, Chinese Ambassador Wang Lutong, founder Keith Neylon, and Blue River ...
Robyn Edie

Blue River general manager Phil Neylon, Chinese Ambassador Wang Lutong, founder Keith Neylon, and Blue River vice-president Wei Li at the Invercargill sheep milk plant, on Thursday.

Blue River Dairy general manager Phil Neylon said the company had Ministry of Primary Industries staff on-site at the moment auditing its application and was hopeful certification to resume exports would be approved shortly.

Lutong said he was very impressed with the Blue River Dairy plant and the Chinese investment in the company appeared to be a great thing for the company with 20 to 30 new jobs possible on the back of planned growth and plant expansion during the next few years.

Sheep milk products represented a small but growing percentage of Chinese dairy consumption and had many qualities which consumers valued, he said.

"I think these new products will be a hit in China."

Mothers would spend any amount of money to ensure their children had a safe and nutritious infant formula, Lutong said.

His two-day visit would also include meetings with New Zealand Aluminium Smelters, the Alliance Group and a visit to Bluff to learn more about its famous oysters. Lutong said he was interested in the possibility of exporting fresh oysters to China.

Southland had very solid links to China in the red meat industry, he said.

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Lutong said he was very focused on making sure Chinese companies looking to invest in Southland were "good, serious" investors.

Blue River Dairy sales and marketing manager Justine Horgan said there had been an adjustment period with the new owners but as they were existing customers the relationship was already strong and they wanted to keep the family-orientated culture.

The new owners were investing in people, training and new equipment, she said.

 - The Southland Times

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