Dairy goat milk processors, looking to increase their supplier numbers, are helping to drive interest among farmers in New Zealand’s growing goat milk industry.
A report prepared by the Sheep and Goat Dairy Project, a government funded, not-for-profit initiative dedicated to growing New Zealand's sheep and goat milk industry, notes that in 2019 exports of goat milk products topped $250m.
Mounting interest in non-bovine milks globally provides an opportunity for New Zealand to expand its dairy goat sector and leverage its strengths as a producer of high-quality dairy products, the report says.
At a global level, New Zealand is a small participant producing 4% of the volume of milk processed by the main exporters of goat dairy products. The report states that although there is scope to increase milk volumes as the sector expands, New Zealand cannot expect to compete on scale.
"The focus must be on how it can maximise value from the milk it does produce."
In 2019, New Zealand exports of goat milk products were estimated to be valued at $250 million. Under the current model, expanding the industry through the production of high-value products such as infant formula, has potential to increase the sector's economic contribution to $480 million in 2024.
"Further gains could be achieved with the adoption of business models that enable greater value to be extracted from the supply chain."
New Zealand has a small, well established goat milk industry that is concentrated in the central North Island close to industrial scale processing facilities in Auckland and Hamilton. These include FoodWaikato, a government-backed venture helping grow New Zealand's food and beverage exports, and two commercially operated factories.
Goat milk is a valuable source of nutrition and provides a number of essential nutrients for optimal health, including high quality protein, five B vitamins, vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, iodine. Goat milk's nutritional profile can support several consumer health and nutrition propositions such as immune function, brain health and cognition, the provision of energy and reduced tiredness.
It also contains several nutrients that are at times needed in higher amounts, for example during pregnancy and lactation, growth and development, ageing and sports nutrition.
The report says that the retail markets for goat milk products is small but growing across all categories.
Cheese is the main product exported, closely followed by infant powders offer the best opportunities for New Zealand goat milk.
This is based on market size, projected growth, profit potential and New Zealand's strength as a producer of high-quality milk powders, the report says.
Of the five markets studied, China is the most attractive market for infant formula and nutritional powders, in terms of size and projected growth rate. However, China is difficult to access with an expensive and time consuming registration process for infant formula and an unpredictable regulatory system.
The report says significant financial invesment required makes it less viable for emerging busineses.
"It would be wise for newer businesses to focus on markets that are easier to operate in, even though the potential might be lower.
"For example, the rapidly ageing population and strong consumer interest in health suggest Taiwan and South Korea may offer promise for nutritional powders.
"This needs to be validated with consumer research. It is worth noting that aside from China, the demand for infant formula in many developed markets is falling due to declining birth rates and public health efforts to encourage breast feeding.
"This is also a risk with high value nutritional powders as wealthier consumers shift towards fresh and/or liquid formats."
After milk powders, goat-based yoghurt and ultra-heat treated (UHT) milk look promising. The interest in goat infant formula suggests an opening for new premium formats that target toddlers and young children, and there are likely to be adults seeking alternatives to cow milk versions, the report states.
However, several challenges need to be overcome before these formats are feasible, including uncertainties about their profit potential and technical challenges due to goat milk's instability in high temperatures.
Demand for goat butter is minimal although there are signs of potential opportunity in the US.
Pet food powders also appear to be an untapped market with China and the USA worth exploring.
Although goat cheese is the main format traded internationally and the volumes sold through retail channels in Germany and the USA are substantial and growing steadily, cheese is not seen as an attractive prospect for New Zealand.
The market for goat cheese is well established and dominated by European goat cheeses - many of whihc have Protected Denomination of Origin (PDO) status - that are purchased for their provenance and distinct flavours. It would be difficult for New Zealand cheeses to compete in this space without its own provenance value.