‘Ireland does not want to be the next New Zealand’

Ireland does not want to be the next New Zealand – selling dairy commodities – according to David Butler, FDI manager, Food Division, Enterprise Ireland.

He said that Ireland may be similar to New Zealand in many ways, but the future of our dairy exports lies in adding value to dairy. With 84% of dairy output in Ireland exported, and a projected increase in dairy supply from next year, he said it’s all about adding value and selling that on to international markets. These markets, he said, will absorb dairy products in the nutrition, consumer foods and infant formula categories, as well as ingredients traded globally, such as enhanced powders and cheeses.

New Zealand, he said, is a very strong commodity output producer, which is not something that Ireland wants to be. “We want to be an exporter of high-quality products, so you retain more of the value and you can add more innovation to capture more margin.”

The infant formula market, he said, is one sector that presents this opportunity for Ireland. “However, the infant formula sector is one of the most complex and highly regulated fields.” He said the attraction to it by pharmaceutical giants such as Abbott and Wyeth show its potential.

However, a question for Irish produce going into the Chinese market, he said, will be branding and country of origin. Brand Ireland, he said is relatively unknown to the Chinese consumer. However, Nestle is due to launch an an Irish country of origin infant formula in China in the near future which, he says, will be interesting to see how it is received by the consumer.