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A Canterbury business creating a high-value, top-dollar future for merino wool has won the Supreme Award at the New Zealand International Business Awards 2019.

Based in Christchurch, The New Zealand Merino Company (pictured) is an integrated sales, marketing and innovation company for merino wool, and the world’s leading supplier of ethical wool through its accreditation brand, ZQ Merino. 

The company aims to help transform merino wool from a commodity into a high-value fibre, working with brands to create unique design-led and R&D-based products that incorporate merino wool, and in turn helping growers to get better returns.

Its partnerships include local and global brands ranging from Icebreaker, Allbirds, Mons Royale, Rodd & Gunn and Untouched World to Hugo Boss, Fjallraven and Helly Hansen. As well as apparel, they have also teamed up for novel products such as US boardmaker Firewire’s Woolight composite surfboard.

Judges were impressed with how the New Zealand Merino Company had worked to help shift the entire local merino industry from volume to value, investing in a design-led approach over multiple years and also helping many of their partner brands and suppliers to adopt design thinking approaches. The company won the Excellence in Design award earlier in the night, before being chosen from all category winners to receive the Supreme Award. They were also highly commended in the Excellence in Innovation and ANZ Best Large Business categories.

This marks the awards’ second year running with a Canterbury business taking top honours, following a win for geological software business Seequent in 2018.

The New Zealand Merino Company was included in the awards process after winning a Westpac Champion Canterbury Award – one of six regional export award programmes that feed through to the New Zealand International Business Awards via a partnership with ExportNZ.

Thirty-nine of New Zealand’s top export companies and business leaders made it through to the final stage of the awards, a record number. This followed a nine-month application and judging process. They came from around New Zealand and represented an array of sectors demonstrating the nation’s business diversity and innovation.

David Downs, convenor of judges for the awards, said: “With the high quality of entrants, every year one of the hardest tasks we have is selecting finalists, and it can be incredibly hard to pull one winner out from such a strong field.

“The results these businesses are getting with their international growth, and the stories we heard of how Kiwis are winning on the world stage, were fascinating and inspiring.”

The awards were presented at a black-tie dinner in Auckland on Thursday, 7 November.

This year’s awards were the second to feature a category for Inspiring Women Leaders. Five outstanding businesswomen were nominated for this award, with judges selecting two joint winners from an exceptional shortlist of finalists. The joint winners were:

Angie Judge of Dexibit. Chief Executive of visitor attraction technology firm Dexibit, Angie is recognised in New Zealand and internationally as a leader and mentor for women in technology, with a commitment to diversity, inclusion and creating professional development pathways for aspiring female leaders in tech. She was recognised as a champion for continual learning and development not just in her business, but in her industry and for herself. 

Helen Robinson of Organic Initiative (Oi). Helen’s role as co-founder and CEO of Organic Initiative is the latest chapter in her decades-long leadership journey as an entrepreneur and independent director here and internationally. She is a sustainability, diversity and inclusion champion, focusing Oi on a mission to give women around the world access to safe, sustainable health products. 

Details of all finalists can be found at


The winners are:

Supreme Award for International Business (chosen from the winners of all categories)

The New Zealand Merino Company Limited


He kai kei aku ringa for Māori Excellence in Export

Kono – An associated business of Wakatū Incorporation, Kono is a family-owned Māori food and beverage producer with a global consumer focus.  Kono farms 530 hectares of land and sea in the Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough regions, producing award-winning wine, cider, seafood, fruit, and natural fruit bars. Kono aspires to be the world’s best indigenous food and beverage provider and a connection to Aotearoa’s natural resources underpins its identity as a Māori organisation.  


Inspiring Women Leaders:

Angie Judge, Dexibit (Auckland)

Helen Robinson, Organic Initiative (Oi) (Auckland)

Siobhan McKenna, category judge and CEO of Global Women, commented: “We struggled to decide between the finalists for this category – every one of them would have been a worthy winner. In the end we decided to recognise two winners.

“Angie stood out because of her exceptional attitude to leadership as a journey of learning, for herself and the people around her. That’s reflected in the extraordinary networks and breadth of contacts she’s built up, and it was wonderful to see her also encourage other women into tech leadership through Dexibit.

“Helen has done so much in business and governance in New Zealand and overseas and we saw all of that experience and attitude summed up in her work with Oi, in the service of a project to improve the lives of women everywhere. It was impossible not to be inspired by that.”


Best Emerging Business

Re-Leased (Hawke’s Bay)

Re-Leased has a mission to transform the global property industry, by providing game-changing property management cloud software that empowers managers, owners and other key stakeholders to connect anytime and anywhere from any device.

Judges were very impressed with Re-Leased’s achievement so far, with a level of preparation for the future that goes beyond many emerging organisations, and a clear understanding of customers needs and operational requirements for ongoing success.

Highly commended: Method Recycling (Wellington), Organic Initiative (Dunedin)


Best Medium Business:

Doyle Sails New Zealand Limited (Auckland)

Doyle Sails has established itself as a global leader in high-performance sails for racing, cruising and superyachts, with a proven track record of design excellence and customer satisfaction over almost 40 years.

Judges described Doyle Sails as a compelling business with great results and even greater potential, with a sales approach driven by precise customer knowledge, and a relentless ambition and drive to win that resonates across the organisation.

Highly commended: Natural Pet Food Group (Canterbury), Tuapeka Gold Print Limited (Dunedin)


ANZ Best Large Business:

Douglas Pharmaceuticals (Auckland)

Employing 700 staff and working with innovative partners across the pharmaceutical industry, Douglas Pharmaceuticals is a rapidly expanding company with a reputation for high manufacturing standards, quality products and outstanding client service.

Judges identified strategy as a core strength of this business, with an evident desire for continued growth, innovation and success, motivated by a passion and drive to make a difference in people’s lives.


Excellence in Innovation:

Bluelab Corporation Limited (Hawke’s Bay)

Bluelab is a world-recognised leader in technology for water-based plant growing systems – offering meters, controllers and automated systems to support a new wave of commercial hydroponic food production worldwide.

Judges noted Bluelab as a rapid, serial innovator with clear evidence of international results, and were impressed by a business culture and working spaces that demonstrated an end-to-end understanding of innovation in practice.

Highly commended: Dexibit (Auckland), The New Zealand Merino Company (Canterbury)


Excellence in Design

The New Zealand Merino Company Limited (Canterbury)

The New Zealand Merino Company Limited is an integrated sales, marketing and innovation company for New Zealand merino wool, and the world’s leading supplier of ethical wool through its accreditation brand ZQ.

Judges recognised the company’s long-term achievement as an adopter and industry advocate for design thinking, with a collaborative approach across growers and stakeholders to help transform merino fibre from a commodity to a value-added, differentiated product in global markets.


Inspiring Preference for New Zealand:

Kono (Whakatū – Nelson)

As a vertically integrated, family-owned Māori food and beverage exporter, Kono lives and breathes the values of kaitiaki, integrity and ingenuity, and places these intergenerational values at the heart of what they do and how they do it.

Judges praised Kono’s committed and authentic relationships with partners and distributors, their rich storytelling for international audiences, and the collective thinking throughout the business that adds real commercial value from marketing through to distribution.

Highly commended: Ao Skincare (Auckland)

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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