Case study: Emerald Food explores new continents

Chocolate Hokey Pokey is just one of a couple of innovations that are being introduced by the ice cream maestros Emerald Foods, coinciding with its launch of the New Zealand Natural brand into Chile this year – the latest developments in a line of many.

Chocolate Hokey Pokey is just one of a couple of innovations that are being introduced by the ice cream maestros Emerald Foods, coinciding with its launch of the New Zealand Natural brand into Chile this year – the latest developments in a line of many.

emerald foods shane lamont idealog nzteThree years on from winning the Best Business Operating Internationally in the $10 million to $50 million category of the 2009 New Zealand International Business Awards, Emerald Foods chief executive officer Shane Lamont has continued to take the ice cream company from strength to strength, doubling its sales and NPD staff and growing revenue by 25 percent. Its East Tamaki-based factory manufactures premium ice cream, sorbets and frozen yoghurt under brands such as New Zealand Natural, Killinchy Gold, Zilch, Lite Licks and Chateau, and it co-manufactures ice cream for various international clients.

This year will be Emerald Foods’ year of continental shift, now expanding its ice cream empire into the thirsty markets of both South America and South Africa.

Innovation across the brands has been in full swing since winning the business award. The company has introduced to its range new products such as the aforementioned Chocolate Hokey Pokey, a new spin on a traditional product, and is currently in the process of launching a new kiwifruit product into the New Zealand Natural range, which is another iconic flavour popular with overseas consumers. The Killinchy Gold and Zilch brands are making their way into Chile alongside New Zealand Natural, and Emerald is now working on relationships with other potential Chilean clients in other channels.

Last year saw the company continue to grow the business on both the manufacturing fronts (particularly its Japanese client base, which was booming already at the time of the awards and has continued to be the largest contributor to growth) and its franchising business; in 2009, the New Zealand Natural parlour franchise featured in 21 markets, and today it has expanded to 27 with new countries on board like Qatar, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea South Africa, Chile and in the near future, Bangladesh.

But the kick-off this year is in South America. A January launch event with the Chilean New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) ambassador celebrated the first tubs of New Zealand Natural ice cream landing on the supermarket shelves of Chile’s largest retail chain, Cencosud, in December last year. Pricewise, Emerald Foods is launching into the top end of the market.

“The quality of our products  will shine through – our quality compared to the local ice cream  is high,” Lamont says.

For the first time, Emerald Foods has actively employed speakers of the local language  to start building relationships  on the continent.

“We’ve brought in Spanish speakers [from Europe] especially to focus on this market,” says Lamont. “There’s no way you can enter that market without them. It’s very much a relationship-driven market also, so it is a long-term growth opportunity for us. It won’t happen overnight.”

March will see New Zealand Natural also launch into Pretoria in South Africa, with assistance from NZTE getting a foothold in the market. 

“They stepped up and helped us more than we ever thought,” Lamont says. “The support has been fantastic.”

Lamont says winning the New Zealand International Business Awards boosted the company’s reach considerably.

“The awards allowed Emerald to be seen by quite a number of people. It really got the name out there, and established even more credibility for the business.”

Entries for the NZ International Business Awards are now open. To enter, visit www.nzte.govt.nz/awards.