Here are New Zealand’s 10 leading categories of exported products. All of these offer huge opportunity for innovative entrepreneurs to create businesses exporting these products to Asia and further afield.
1. Milk powder, butter, and cheese
Worth US$8.9 billion annually (23.5% of NZ’s exports)
New Zealand’s dairy industry is built on an efficient, all grass farming system. This, combined with strong investment in research and development, puts New Zealand at the cutting edge of dairy production, with the country’s dairy products regarded as premium quality.
New Zealand’s dairy exports range from basic products such as milk powders, butter and cheese to specialty foods such as ice-cream and highly specialised ingredients such as spray dried milk proteins, protein hydrolysates and freeze dried biologically active proteins.
A growing trend is the development of functional foods such as low-fat, high-calcium and high-protein milk; and the development of biomedical and biohealth products, such as colostrum-based health supplements and products made from organic milk.
Major export markets include China, the US, Japan, the European Union, Malaysia, Australia, Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore, Belgium, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.
2. Meat – beef, lamb, edible offal, Halal meat and pet food.
Worth US$5.6 billion annually (14.6% of NZ exports)
New Zealand is a world leader in farming for sheep meat and beef production and does this without the assistance of government subsidies. Most of the country’s sheep and cattle are fed entirely on grass, which makes New Zealand meat desirable overseas.
About 28 million sheep and cattle are slaughtered and processed in New Zealand each year. Ninety percent of this meat is processed into value-added products. More than one million tonnes, or 85% of the production is exported to 120 overseas destinations.
Almost 20 per cent of New Zealand’s total exports of red meat and edible meat products are now Halal-certified. Halal products are exported to more than 65 countries.
Worth US$2.9 billion (7.6% of NZ’s exports)
While New Zealand is a small player in the international forestry industry, (just over 1% of the world’s supply of wood), forestry is a significant industry in New Zealand – employing about 20,000 people. The industry is based around sustainably managed exotic plantation forests, covering 1.751 million hectares – about 7% of New Zealand’s land area. Radiata pine makes up 90% of the exotic plantation area, with Douglas fir accounting for 6% and the rest made up of eucalyptus and other species.
The New Zealand forestry sector is entering an exciting new phase, as forests planted in recent decades reach maturity, increasing production volumes. This presents opportunities for entrepreneurs to find new export markets for New Zealand wood.
4. Fruits, nuts
Worth US$2.9 billion annually (4.5% of NZ’s exports)
New Zealand’s two largest fruit exports are kiwifruit and apples – but the country also exports smaller amounts of other fruit such as citrus, avocados, berry fruits, stone fruit and feijoas. Fruit is exported fresh, frozen or made into juice or other products.
The New Zealand fruit industry places a high value on environmental sustainability and the use of agrichemicals is minimised. There is also growing organic production of kiwifruit, apples and other fruit.
The production of nuts in New Zealand is increasing steadily and the country now exports walnuts, macadamias and chestnuts, as well as olives.
5. Wine, alcoholic beverages
Worth US$1.4 billion annually (3.8% of NZ’s exports)
New Zealand is gaining a reputation as producer of quality wines, which are now sold in more than 80 countries. The food-friendly nature of New Zealand wines makes them a favourite with top chefs and discerning consumers throughout Europe, Asia and the Pacific Rim.
China is rapidly becoming one of New Zealand’s largest wine markets. The Chinese prefer red wines and New Zealand cabernet merlot is particularly popular as well as cabernet sauvignon. New Zealand wine producers are focusing on the premium end of the Chinese market.
Growing Chinese demand for New Zealand red wine complements our traditionally popular white wines, such as Sauvignon blanc, Pinot noir, Cabernet sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot gris. More than 90% of New Zealand vineyards are following sustainable growing practices and several have achieved carbon neutral status.
6. Modified starches, enzymes
Worth US$1.1 billion annually (3% of NZ’s exports)
This is a New Zealand industry with a low profile but with great potential to increase exports. Modified starches are widely used in the food and cosmetics industries, as well in the manufacture of paper and glues. They are made in New Zealand from cereals, such as maize, corn and wheat, or root crops such as potatoes.
There is also considerable research and development of enzymes taking place in New Zealand, using extracts from fruit, vegetables and grains.
Worth US $1 billion annually (2.7% of NZ’s exports)
New Zealand’s clear waters produce an abundance of fish and shellfish, which are exported to more than 70 countries. Major markets are China, Australia, the United States, Japan and Hong Kong.
New Zealand has a strong emphasis on sustainable fishing and companies are customising fish products meet consumers’ desire for healthy, fresh and delicious seafood. Researchers are also exploring opportunities to develop new, higher value products from marine extracts, including food additives, dietary supplements, nutraceuticals, and pharmaceuticals.
8. Other food preparations
Worth US$876.8 million annually (2.3% of NZ’s exports)
More than 2000 innovative New Zealand companies are involved in producing a wide range of food and beverage products. These include specialty sauces and marinades, oils, luxury ice creams and cheeses, organic soups, and beverages such as energy drinks, organic juices and boutique beers.
Massey University has one of the top food technology courses in the world. With smart creative branding, top research and development, and leading edge technology, this category is only going to expand over the coming years.
Worth US$285 million annually (0.75% of NZ’s exports)
Honey is one of New Zealand’s fastest growing exports, driven by the popularity of honey sourced from the Manuka tree, which is prized for its health benefits.
The strong demand for Manuka honey from overseas is likely to mean continued growth in the industry in New Zealand. The government has formed a partnership with honey producers, which aims to increase the annual value of New Zealand’s Manuka honey exports to $1.2 billion by 2028 and investment is going into developing new products.
The industry has limited competition, given Manuka only grows naturally in New Zealand and Australia. There is also increasing demand from overseas for New Zealand bee products such as pollen, propolis and beeswax.
10. Skincare products
Worth US$200 million annually (0.5% of NZ’s exports)
New Zealand has a growing number of producers of premium cosmetic and skincare products, based mainly on natural plants and herbs, including several certified organic producers.
These eco-friendly cosmetic and skincare products are in strong demand in many Asian countries. Worldwide, there is a switch from chemical-based substances to natural, plant extract-based beauty products with a sustainability story – and this offers huge potential for New Zealand exporters.
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