Popular milk company eyes up China for exports

  • 14/01/2016

By Fiona Rotherham

Lewis Road Creamery, the premium dairy brand company, will make a final decision this year whether to export to China.

The premium dairy brand company is considering exporting fresh organic milk into Shanghai and is also planning to release a number of product extensions. It has already moved beyond dairy products into baked goods.

The Auckland-based brand saw 340 percent growth in retail sales to $40 million of its butter, cream, organic milk, and flavoured milk products during 2015, the year of what founder Peter Cullinane calls "the chocolate milk frenzy".

His big decisions this year include whether to get serious about exporting and how far to extend the product range beyond dairy.

For the past couple of months it has been trialling sales of Lewis Road Bakery premium kibbled grain bread in 12 Auckland retail outlets.

Cullinane said it's currently exporting small amounts of butter to Australia and has been investigating a wider move, in particular fresh organic milk to Shanghai following a trip to China last year.

Other markets under consideration include Australia, the UK, and the US, though he thinks the latter may be beyond the company's current reach.

One of the advantages of being a small operator under a majority owner is that the company he founded in 2011 can make decisions more quickly than some of its larger rivals, Cullinane said.

"When we do (export), we will do it quickly."

But he thinks New Zealand companies are too focused on export, forgetting the local market.

The company's phenomenal growth in chocolate milk sales, which on launch in Oct. 2014 saw queues in supermarkets and security guards overseeing allocation, has abated from 48 per cent between the last quarter of 2014 and first quarter of 2015 to more normal levels.

"It was a once in a blue moon phenomenon," he said. "But it was an extraordinary boost to the business."