UPDATED: Heitiki to rebrand controversial infant formula
(BusinessDesk) – The Chinese infant milk formula company behind the Heitiki brand is to rebrand to remove any reference to Maori culture, saying it intended no offece.
The issue, which started with cultural concerns expressed by Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia, but mushroomed into a brief food safety scare after the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said it would investigate the product.
Kiaora's New Zealand general manager Sean Xu apologised for cultural offence and said the product would be relabelled without reference to Maori culture, "but in a way that still promotes its New Zealand manufacture."
The contract manufacturer, bovine culostrums-based health supplements maker New Image Ltd., was briefly dragged into the row, issuing a statement to say its subsidiary, Food Contractors Ltd., makes the formula and delivers it to a client, Kiaora New Zealand International, which markets and promotes the product, the company said in a statement.
New Image is a contract manufacturer for several brands of milk product and the Heitiki formula carried export-compliant manufacturer licence details, but no country of origin details.
Turia initially criticised the use of Maori imagery and words, and feared the product was being targeted at Maori women, when it is in fact an export product made by a well-established NZX-listed company.
She then sought to raise food safety concerns on the product, apparently prompting the MAF action.
New Image said the labelling and imagery on the Heitiki product was supplied by Kiaora and approved by the China Export and Inspection Quarantine Department. It was made for export to China.
Shares in New Image were unchanged at 27 cents.