Call to protect formula branding

ANDREA FOX
Last updated 07:35 14/11/2012

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Kiwi dairy companies are calling for the Government and dairy industry to collaborate to tackle potentially serious New Zealand brand damage from a growing number of infant-formula counterfeiters exporting into China.

But the Primary Industries Ministry says that while it has rigorous standards and programmes that New Zealand companies exporting infant formula and milk powders must meet, it has no control over counterfeiting.

Canterbury dairy processor and exporter Synlait and Open Country Dairy, the country's second- biggest export processor after Fonterra, have told Fairfax they have become concerned this year at the "proliferation" of infant formula brand traders claiming New Zealand origins.

Fonterra, which controls 90 per cent of the country's raw milk supply and sells milk powder to New Zealand-based companies which blend and package dairy products for export, did not respond to questions.

An industry source said Fonterra once had a policy of not selling to domestic companies.

Demand for New Zealand milk powder has surged after the 2008 melamine infant-formula poisoning scandal in China.

New Zealand supermarkets now limit the number of cans of baby milk powder that can be bought at one visit.

Synlait marketing manager Michael Wan said the activity of some infant-formula exporters could erode New Zealand's brand image.

"New Zealand as a whole has an opportunity to look at what is going on. There is a debate to be had about the use of the claim 'made in New Zealand'. There needs to be wider discussion in the New Zealand dairy industry on how to define what is 'made in New Zealand'."

Wan said Synlait knew of at least 35 brands created that claimed to be New Zealand-manu factured. Some had no supply chain, using a third-party facility to blend and can ingredients.

He said the Primary Industries Ministry and dairy companies needed to be the "first cabs off the rank" in addressing the issue.

Open Country chairman Laurie Margrain wants the problem discussed at the upcoming meeting of DCANZ, the dairy companies association.

"We think New Zealand is a brand - we must do more to protect the brand."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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