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Strong Growth In Cereal-Based Food Exports

Strong growth in cereal-based food exports

A new analysis of New Zealand's cereal-based foods and baked-goods sector has shown it to be achieving significant and consistent export growth.

Crop & Food Research Business manager Tim Lindley says that alongside recent growth in the vegetables-based food and milk sectors, the cereal sector is moving strongly forward.

Dr Lindley says the figures he has recently collated from Statistics NZ show that since 2000, grain-based exports, while not initially large, have grown to the point that 10% of what the industry produces is now exported.

Dr Lindley says there are a number of explanations for this, including the increased level of scientific research with an export focus, and the increasing competitiveness and specialisation of food manufacturers in the sector.

Another reason for the growth is that prior to the 1990s, the cereal sector had a strong domestic focus, and concentrated on the raw supply of wheat to domestic mills for the production of locally baked goods. However, in 1987 the industry was deregulated and one of the results was that food companies that produced grain-based products began to look overseas in order to grow.

"Nowadays there is general recognition across food companies that there are a lot of different stages at which you can stop the value-adding process and export," says Dr Lindley. "For instance, we are unlikely to export raw grain but we might export dough or cake mix, or take it a step further and export cooked puddings and health bars. The opportunities are considerable."

Examples of well known NZ food companies exporting grain-based products include Old Fashioned Foods, Tasti, Yarrows and Quality Foods Southland.

Old Fashioned Foods CEO Ross McKenzie says the sector is focusing more on exports from a strong domestic base. "These results show that a New Zealand-based food company, with good product ideas, good technical capability and a feel for the market, can be internationally competitive."

Crop & Food Research staff have traditionally worked alongside the cereal-based foods and baked-goods sector to provide expert advice in nutrition and health, food engineering and manufacturing, cereal breeding programmes, training and apprenticeship services and significant other fundamental and applied research into the processing of cereal-based foods.

Dr Lindley says there are many examples of science contributing to the further growth of the industry including:

* The development of technology and processes to deliver convenient snack foods with fresh baked appeal;

* Research into grain foods with reduced glycaemic loads;

* An investigation into how the structure of cereal-based foods can be enhanced to increase consumer appeal;

* A programme focused on energy-saving measures in the baked goods sector.


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