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High-value wool innovation takes out NZ’s top export awards

A Canterbury business creating a high-value, top-dollar future for merino wool has won the Supreme Award at the New Zealand International Business Awards 2019.

Based in Christchurch, The New Zealand Merino Company Limited is an integrated sales, marketing and innovation company for merino wool, and the world’s leading supplier of ethical wool through its accreditation brand, ZQ Merino.

The company aims to help transform merino wool from a commodity into a high-value fibre, working with brands to create unique design-led and R&D-based products that incorporate merino wool, and in turn helping growers to get better returns.

Its partnerships include local and global brands ranging from Icebreaker, Allbirds, Mons Royale, Rodd & Gunn and Untouched World to Hugo Boss, Fjallraven and Helly Hansen. As well as apparel, they have also teamed up for novel products such as US boardmaker Firewire’s Woolight composite surfboard.

Judges were impressed with how the New Zealand Merino Company Limited had worked to help shift the entire local merino industry from volume to value, investing in a design-led approach over multiple years and also helping many of their partner brands and suppliers to adopt design thinking approaches.

The New Zealand Merino Company Limited won the Excellence in Design award earlier in the night, before being chosen from all category winners to receive the Supreme Award. They were also highly commended in the Excellence in Innovation and ANZ Best Large Business categories.

This marks the awards’ second year running with a Canterbury business taking top honours, following a win for geological software business Seequent in 2018.

The New Zealand Merino Company Limited were included in the awards process after winning a Westpac Champion Canterbury Award – one of six regional export award programmes that feed through to the New Zealand International Business Awards via a partnership with ExportNZ.

Thirty-nine of New Zealand’s top export companies and business leaders made it through to the final stage of the awards, a record number. This followed a nine-month application and judging process. They came from around New Zealand and represented an array of sectors demonstrating the nation’s business diversity and innovation.

The winners were chosen by an independent panel of judges with extensive experience in growing businesses internationally.

David Downs, convenor of judges for the awards, said: “With the high quality of entrants, every year one of the hardest tasks we have is selecting finalists, and it can be incredibly hard to pull one winner out from such a strong field.

“The results these businesses are getting with their international growth, and the stories we heard of how Kiwis are winning on the world stage, were fascinating and inspiring.”

The awards were presented at a black-tie dinner in Auckland on Thursday, 7 November.

This year’s awards were the second to feature a category for Inspiring Women Leaders. Five outstanding businesswomen were nominated for this award, with judges selecting two joint winners from an exceptional shortlist of finalists. The joint winners were:

Angie Judge ofDexibit. Chief Executive of visitor attraction technology firm Dexibit, Angie is recognised in New Zealand and internationally as a leader and mentor for women in technology, with a commitment to diversity, inclusion and creating professional development pathways for aspiring female leaders in tech. She was recognised as a champion for continual learning and development not just in her business, but in her industry and for herself.

Helen Robinson of Organic Initiative (Oi). Helen’s role as co-founder and CEO of Organic Initiative is the latest chapter in her decades-long leadership journey as an entrepreneur and independent director here and internationally. She is a sustainability, diversity and inclusion champion, focusing Oi on a mission to give women around the world access to safe, sustainable health products.

Now in their 52nd year, the New Zealand International Business Awards are run by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) and supported by Strategic Partner, ANZ New Zealand Limited. They celebrate the success of New Zealand businesses on the world stage and recognise excellence and innovative practice.

Paul Goodwin, Managing Director of ANZ Institutional New Zealand, commented: “ANZ is proud to again partner with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to celebrate the country’s export successes. As a trading nation, our exporters are heroes of the New Zealand economy.

“New Zealand has a long tradition of producing quality goods that are valued in overseas markets, and also of developing innovative ways to get those products to customers around the globe.

Entries to this year’s awards have come from across the country and from an incredibly diverse range of businesses. That reflects the hard work and innovation that is occurring across our export sector.”

Details of all finalists can be found at www.nziba.co.nz.


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