New Zealand Riverland Foods opens $21 million plant in Christchurch

Riverland's state-of-the-art facility will specialize in co-manufacturing wet diets and produce up to 30 million cans of pet food annually.

2 Lisa Selfie December 2020 Headshot
Riverland Foods Factory
New Zealand Riverland Foods

Adapted from a press release

New Zealand Riverland Foods Ltd. (Riverland) has officially opened its premium pet food processing facility in Christchurch. Specialized in co-manufacturing wet diets, the US$21 million (NZ$35 million) state-of-the-art facility holds the capacity to produce 30 million cans per year.

Riverland Foods is focused on selling to Asia and other international markets, said Riverland general manager Michael Dance.

“Today is a double celebration, as we are opening our factory and we’re signing our first two contracts to make pet food for overseas brands," said Dance.

Riverland’s said its plant is a first for New Zealand as it produces exclusively for its clients’ brands, removing a challenge that limited New Zealand as a go-to destination for third party manufacturing. Riverland’s location in Christchurch is a key advantage due to its proximity to sea and rail transport links as well as suppliers of quality raw materials used as ingredients in pet food, explained Dance.

“Canterbury is close to a host of suppliers of raw produce such as red meat, fish, shellfish, and fresh fruit," he explained. "And its meat products are sourced from animals reared on pasture-based systems and have good provenance, which our customers see as highly desirable."

Inaugural customers: United Labs and Talentail

Signing today as inaugural customers for the plant’s output were United Laboratories International Holdings Ltd. (United Labs) from China and Talentail from Australia.

“We’re thrilled to be able to start a partnership with two well respected companies and we look forward to a continued relationship with them and agreeing terms with further clients in a few weeks,” Dance said.

United Labs is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange and one of its subsidiaries specializes in animal medicines for veterinarians and pet hospitals.

“The United Labs subsidiary has been looking to develop its own pet food range and so they’ve come to us to help launch a range of cat foods, each with a functional component to target a particular nutritional need, which could be for skin and coat, or perhaps gut health," said Dance.

Talentail is an established brand in Australia currently supplying dry pet food to their global markets and wants to diversify by adding wet food to its range. While dry pet foods have their advantages, wet foods typically contain higher levels of protein and minerals, aid pet hydration, and typically offer greater palatability, said Dance. Talentail said the addition of wet food will create a great combination of high-quality food from Oceania region for their global customers.

“We’re open for business to export to Australia, Hong Kong, South Korea, North America and Singapore,” Dance said, adding that all regulatory approvals had been obtained, apart from to mainland China, but approval there is expected soon.

Pet food is a high-growth market for New Zealand

At the opening on March 19, New Zealand’s Minister for Trade and Agriculture Todd McClay said pet food was an emerging high-growth market for New Zealand. Industry data showed New Zealand pet food exports had quadrupled in less than a decade, increasing from US$48.9 million (NZ$75 million) a year in 2014 to US$194.2 million (NZ$320 million) in 2023, he said.

“This state-of-the-art facility – an important new addition to the Christchurch business landscape – will no doubt have a significant economic impact going forward as a global player in our growing pet food industry, helping to bring New Zealand’s high-quality, sustainable, and nutritious pet products to the world,” said McClay.

McClay said New Zealand’s pet food sector is known for its emphasis on sustainable practices, catering to growing demand for premium pet food products globally.

“It has been a pleasure to visit and see first-hand the investment and opportunity underpinning this exciting new venture that will no doubt play a key role in expanding and growing our global footprint,” he added.

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