Major pet food canning factory opens in New Zealand

The plant can handle 30 million cans of cat and dog food a year exclusively for client brands.

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A major pet food canning factory has started operating in New Zealand in February 2024 under the management of industry veterans.

Called Riverland Foods Limited, the plant can handle 30 million cans of cat and dog food a year exclusively for client brands. The Riverland plant is a high speed, high volume facility that can serve major global pet food companies that have been eagerly looking for a state-of -the-art manufacturing plant to take their business.

Unlike existing canning plants in New Zealand, Riverland will not produce its own pet food so it can treat its customers uniformly and allow it to adapt to market changes and clients' needs faster. General manager Michael Dance said Riverland can help New Zealand become a solid destination for third party pet food manufacturing which generates over NZ$300 million in yearly exports. Over 95% of Riverland's output is expected to go to export.

Dance said locating in Hornby, Christchurch in Canterbury allows them to be near major meat processors so they can work on fresh meats.

Dance said initial investment for Riverland has exceeded NZ$30 million (US$20 million) and further funds are committed for future staged development. This includes work on different meat and textures, specifically for their finicky cat clientele.

He said pet food companies are forced to stock on a range of textures to accommodate cats' changing appetite. Cats may decide to switch from mousse, pate to chunky-with-gravy dishes but it will be no problem for Riverland as they can make different textures so brand owners can hold on to their customers, Dance said.

“We want to play an essential part in the health and longevity of pets and help put New Zealand firmly on the world pet food map,” said Dance.

Riverland has its own in-house R&D facilities and pilot plant to work on new kinds of products.

Dance said they are in discussion with brand owners in North America, Asia and Australia to manufacture their products. Although they are ready to work with smaller domestic brands, simple math dictates that they must make room for international players from the multi-billion dollar cat and dog food industry. New Zealand's domestic pet food market is valued around $500 million in 2023. 

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