Almost everything New Zealand grows is plant/grassbased compared to most countries using grains to raise animals, Elaine Fisher reports.

that our customers think some other countries are exceptional also.

“Sports teams don’t stop when they are good enough. We are a tier one provider of some of the best food in the world, but it is not enough to tell everyone we are already good enough. Standing still is going backwards.”

Consumers had more power and were becoming increasingly pragmatic in their demands including around the environmental, animal welfare and social sustainability performance of food producers. Due to increased scrutiny, farmers not in the top 25 per cent for performance in those areas should think hard about whether they had a long-term future in continuing to do what they do, Scottie said.

“Increased use of technology in the form of sensors and artificial intelligence means there will be transparency everywhere and nowhere to hide.

“The average consumer wants to research to find out for themselves if a company is authentic and has the science to support the claims it makes.”

Spring Sheep had 24 million data points about the sheep it milked but it talked to customers, not about the animals, but about what was in it for them in terms of superior nutrition, superior taste and environmental sustainability. “A lot of work has been done in the background and if we are challenged, we can explain it.”

Scottie said it was important to understand the modern consumer. “While those over 40 know where their meat and dairy products come from, the modern urban consumer, (and remember everyone under 41 years old is a Gen Z or Millennial), has a different attitude.”

The term ‘meat industry’ was not appealing to these consumers. Many of these consumers also had issues when they researched and believed that they were, “drinking a secretion from another animal which stopped its baby having its mother’s milk”. It was important to market dairy and meat products in ways that better appealed to those consumers.

Increasingly consumers were also seeking natural and whole foods. “With Spring Sheep, we looked at infant formula and did a lot of research to find out what people wanted added to it. The answer was that consumers want ‘free-from’ and ‘purity’.”

The Covid pandemic had led to people taking more responsibility for their own health, along with an increased understanding of the importance of gut health and the gut’s relationship to overall wellbeing.

When it came to marketing New Zealand foods, Scottie said diversification was important, but for Spring Sheep and many other New Zealand producers, China remained a vital market.

“Spring Sheep started in three to four smaller markets before entering China. We have a lot of ambition and want to be a global industry. With infant nutrition you have to be in China.”

Free trade agreements negotiated by successive New Zealand governments in the past 20 years had been fantastic and exporters should look at how the FTAs suited their businesses and ambitions.

Geopolitical risks should also be factored in. “There are lots of other markets. If you have a product which is holistic, then the western world is your market. If it’s more pragmatic, then head to Asia.

“In New Zealand we have so many options. Don’t put your head in the sand. Front foot it. Remember the fast eat the slow.”

Scottie, who describes himself as an “explorer of modern food; investor in the future”, has had a career taking Aotearoa New Zealand food products to the world both for corporates and his own entities.

“With Spring Sheep Milk Co I continue to do that and know Aotearoa New Zealand has a place as the premium producer of traditional food products.”

Spring Sheep is a joint venture between SLC Ventures and Pamu (Landcorp), New Zealand’s largest Government owned farming group.

“Now through SLC Ocean I am surrounding myself with more talented individuals who believe we have an obligation to create environmentally accretive modern food to compliment traditional food and sustainably feed the ever-growing number of people on the planet,” said Scottie.

The company’s aim is to; “make New Zealand a better country for the world by harmoniously utilising our ocean plants while increasing bio-diversity”.