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2016 New Zealand Innovation Awards Innovation in Food & Beverage: Fonterra

The winner of the Innovation in Food & Beverage is... Fonterra!

Fonterra may be Aoteara’s largest company, but size and a long history as a market leader aren’t barriers to innovation – at least if its breast milk substitute is anything to go by.

Not all mothers can breastfeed, of course, so Fonterra has developed a breast milk alternative so infants can still get the nutrition that’s critical for their development. Containing such ingredients as lipids, hydrolysates to support digestive comfort and allergy avoidance and probiotics like bifidobacterium lactis and lactobacillus rhamnosus to support immunity and potentially reduce the risk of allergies and digestive discomfort, the product is aimed at being as natural a substitute for pure breastmilk as possible.

Aside from supporting the health of an infant’s developing gut wall and developing immune system, the lipids in the formula also support brain development. The brain is a lipid-rich organ, and complex lipids such as phospholipids and gangliosides comprise up to 35 per cent of the total lipids in the brain. In short, Fonterra’s formula supports its growth. Likewise, as 2-3 percent of babies suffer from cow’s milk protein allergies – meaning thousands Kiwi kids can’t drink cow’s milk without getting sick – the hydrolysed proteins mean the formula can be digested and absorbed normally by the infant without triggering an allergic response.

Earlier this year, Fonterra released its “Anmum” brand of formula. In a release, Fonterra Brands New Zealand managing director Leon Clement said Anmum was a $200 million brand in Fonterra’s Asian markets, with an established track record of quality and trust with parents and caregivers. “Anmum draws on Fonterra and its legacy companies’ 50 plus years of experience in dairy research and in producing paediatric formulas for third parties,” he said. “Bringing Anmum to New Zealand families means we are now providing nutrition for key life stages.”

Health benefits of Fonterra’s innovation aside, there’s a fair chunk of change to be had, too – after all, the company claims there’s more than $75 million to be made in the infant formula market in New Zealand alone, and billions in Asian markets like China.

A massive print, online and marketing campaign certainly suggest Fonterra is willing to spend the money needed to get the word out about the formula, which is blended and packed at Fonterra’s Canpac site in the Waikato and sold in baby food aisles at select supermarkets across the country in pastel-coloured 900-gramme cans.

The fact Fonterra is a “trusted” brand means it’s also easier to sell amid a climate of concern about food safety and the nutritional value of food, Clement claims. In fact, he says he hopes Anmum becomes one of the top three brands of formula in the Land of the Long White Cloud. “It is a trusted brand internationally and we are confident it will become one here too.”

EVALUATOR'S COMMENTS:

Thank you for submitting your work on ensuring that mothers of babies who are not able to be breastfed can access a product that mimics breast milk composition for brain development. Awesome investment in clinical research to substantiate health claims. Thank you and well done to the whole team! Pleasing to see Fonterra collaborating with New Zealand based research providers as well as internationally.

This story first ran in Idealog 63.