““We’re keen to see dairy farmers’ work and effort in producing milk better appreciated and providing them with a partnership with a company intent upon adding value to their raw product. It’s about taking care of them and our respect for their hard work.””
When Yashili International Holdings Ltd and China Mengniu Dairy Co Ltd chose to locate their $220 million state of the art infant formula dairy factory at Pokeno, it was the culmination of extensive research into the best location and huge support from Waikato District Council’s Mayor, Allan Sanson.
Allan fully supported establishment of the factory at its location, on the Waikato side of the Bombay Hills because he could see the huge benefits that would flow to the region once the massive processing plant was fully operational.
Today, the dairy factory is an integral part of the economic landscape and its Managing Director, David Song, says the plant is fulfilling all expectations. Its establishment also hastened improvements in the regions infrastructure.
Yashili is part of Mengniu Dairy group, which is one of the largest producers in the world and in China. Demand for the highest quality infant food is growing in China and this plant was established to ensure our babies received the best possible nutrition,” David explains.
Located strategically between the ports of Auckland and Tauranga and within New Zealand’s largest dairying province, the Yashili NZ Dairy Company last year produced more than 30,000 tonne of high-grade specialised formulas suitable for children from birth to two years old.
When the plant was commissioned it was set up with a dryer capable of processing 60,000 tonne of milk powder. “We can produce at a rate of 120 cans per minute. Such is the reputation we have in China and in export markets such as Europe, Thailand and Indonesia and Australia that we are actively seeking more suppliers to increase our volumes produced.” To that end David says his focus now is in engaging dairy farmers in a discussion about choosing Yashili to directly supply their milk to.
“We’re keen to see dairy farmers’ work and effort in producing milk better appreciated and providing them with a partnership with a company intent upon adding value to their raw product. It’s about taking care of them and our respect for their hard work.”
This year David and the leadership team are focussing on the community and in enhancing relationships with their existing and potential suppliers. As David puts it:‘‘we want to show our track record and show we are going to be here for the long term’.
“In many ways our company is a miniature success of what New Zealand is looking like. We have 29 nationalities here and we put a lot of effort into ensuring our workers feel welcomed and accepted. Most of them are from within the Pokeno and surrounding areas.”
Asked what he most enjoys leading the pioneering years of the company here David says it comes down to having the opportunity to help see his staff grow professionally.
“It’s my philosophy that to lead you have to serve and my focus is to help individuals in this business.”
The three year plan is to reach maximum production though David admits it’s difficult to be certain about growth forecasts given the business dynamics changing constantly in America, China, Europe and Africa.
“We’re just intent on working with the best possible people, engage with the most passionate milk producer farmers and to ensure our plant and systems are second-to-none. If we continue to do this then our success and the benefits it will bring to our staff, the region and this community will be assured.”
He looks at employees such as Clint Hackworth, who since joining Yashili has progressed from a canning operator to management and Kelly Edmonds, whose career evolved from ‘ground-zero’ to health and safety manager.
“She was so good at her role that she was head-hunted by an Auckland company. We’re very proud that we were part of helping her achieve that.”
Summarising how committed he is to the products Yashili NZ Dairy Company manufacture David says: “We step into this with passion to share. What we make is sustaining and nurturing the most important people on the planet.
“We’re not here to make quick money but to work in sustainable ways that enhance the community and culture we operate in.”
Any dairy farmer keen to learn more about supplying Yashili NZ Dairy Company can contact David.
“I would welcome a conversation with any dairy farmer within an 80km-150km radius of our plant in Pokeno.”