New Zealand now produces more than 100 categories of dairy products. The basic materials for all of these is whole milk.
From bottles to branding
The domestic milk market in New Zealand was deregulated in the 1980s, and consumers went from buying milk in plain glass bottles to buying branded cartons and plastic bottles.
Milk can be processed and sold as whole milk or as whole milk powder. Alternatively, whole milk can be separated into cream and skim milk. Cream can be processed and sold as fresh cream, or made into butter. A by-product of this is buttermilk. Whole milk may also be used to make cheese, from which whey is the by-product.
Production processes aim to make food products longer-lasting. Dairy factories operate under strict hygiene requirements.
Products and value
Milk and cream (not concentrated)
Between 1988 and 2008 the volume of liquid whole milk increased at least fourfold to more than 40 million kilograms per year, with a value of more than $50 million. However, during this period average revenues decreased, fluctuating between $1.20 and $1.80 per kilogram.
Concentrated milk and cream
Concentrated milk (whole or skim milk dried to a powder) is the largest export product category. Skim milk can be processed and sold as milk protein concentrate, or as casein, a protein supplement. The volume of concentrated milk exported increased fourfold between 1988 and 2008 to approximately 1 billion kilograms, with a value of around $3 billion. Average values fluctuated between $2.80 and $4.80 per kilogram.
Butter has declined in relative importance, but in 2008 remained the third most important dairy export. The quantity of butter exported increased slightly between 1988 and 2008 to over 300 million kilograms, with a value of around $1 billion. Average revenues have been relatively flat, fluctuating between $2.50 and $3.60 per kilogram.
Between 1998 and 2008 the volume of buttermilk exported doubled to more than 40 million kilograms, with a value of around $100 million. Values have been relatively flat, fluctuating between $2 and $4.50 per kilogram.
Whey can be processed and sold as whey powder, lactose, whey mineral concentrate or alcohol.
Whey product exports increased dramatically between 2004 and 2008, from less than 10 million kilograms to more than 80 million kilograms. Total revenues increased from less than $10 million to more than $400 million. The increase in price can be attributed to successful marketing of whey protein in Europe, North America and Japan by targeting niche sports beverage companies.
Curds and whey
‘Little Miss Muffet’ is a well-known nursery rhyme that first appeared in print in 1805. It is said to have been written by a famous entomologist, Dr Thomas Muffet, for his stepdaughters. The girl in the rhyme sits on a tuffet, eating curds and whey – an old name for cottage cheese. The curds are the lumpy parts and the whey is the milky part.
Cheese and curd
In 2008 cheese and curd was the second-most important export dairy product. The volume of cheese and curd exported nearly tripled between 1988 and 2008 to approximately 300 million kilograms, with a value of around $1 billion. Average values fluctuated between $3.50 and $5.00 per kilogram. In 2008 New Zealand was the fifth-largest cheese exporter in the world.