22 Sep 2020

Boutique butter maker sees opportunities in wake of Covid-19

From Checkpoint, 6:20 pm on 22 September 2020

A New Zealand producer churning out what he calls the champagne of butter says Covid-19 is creating more opportunities overseas for high end products from Aotearoa.

The butter sells in a premium grocery chain in the US for around NZ$10 for a petite block of just under 230 grams. It is believed to be one of the most expensive of its kind.

Southern Pastures part owns Lewis Road Creamery. It produces the butter from Southern's farms, which adhere to special welfare and sustainability standards.

Southern Pastures executive chairman Prem Maan told Checkpoint it is different from the butter New Zealanders find on the shelf - not just tastier but, he claims, healthier.

"We genuinely wanted to create something that was unique… When you measure it in terms of nutritional analysis, it has the highest level of Omega-3 and the lowest level of Omega-6.

"It spreads from the fridge – you can take it out of the fridge and spread it easily because it's got the highest fat content… You have a big chunk of it, you don't want to eat cheese. You spread a big chunk of it on bread and it is wonderful," he said.

Since the company started more than 10 years ago Maan said high animal welfare standards have been a priority. "No inductions, we had no tail dockings, we put calf loading bays on all our farms, and something we still cling to is we don't allow any export of live animals because we see that as being inhumane."

There is an opportunity for New Zealand to capitalise on premium export products in the wake of Covid-19's disruptions, he said.

"We are seeing the results of that. In terms of the markets we sell to – US and Australia – there's been an increase in sales of good healthy products.

"Basically consumers are going to supermarkets, ordering online, ordering products of food their grandparents recognised as products of food. So all the new synthetic products they're no longer looking at.

"The other important opportunity for New Zealand is, in a weird way there's a level playing field now… At the moment because you can't travel, big consumers aren't actually taking meetings and everything's being done online. In a way that's a level playing field for New Zealand – we can actually talk to consumers around the world, make our pitches, and thankfully trade is still happening, still flowing between countries."

On US shelves, Southern Pastures' butter is the most expensive, Maan said, and they considering making it available in Aotearoa.

"We will be looking at trying to see if Kiwis do want to buy it at that price."