Christchurch-based Eagle Protect has been servicing local industries for 11 years. Now it’s making inroads into the US with its food safety disposable gloves and clothing.
There are over 3,000 reported deaths and 48 million reported illnesses in the US each year from foodborne illness (FBI), with 15 percent of these figures attributed to glove cross contamination.
Eagle Protect has a goal to reduce these numbers through food safe products and processes, and its unique and ongoing research investment into the science of disposable gloves and how they affect the food they handle.
By 2022 the achievement of these goals would reduce FBI’s by 3.6 million cases and save 225 lives every year!
Eagle Protect supplies a large proportion of the New Zealand primary food industry, food processing and manufacturing, as well as the dental, medical and aged care sectors with disposable gloves and clothing.
The company is New Zealand’s first Certified B Corp (the world’s only disposable glove and clothing specialist to be B Corp certified) and has recently been certified Child Labour Free to Manufacturing level for a specific range of products.
“Paraphrasing a B Corp theme, we want our business to not only be the best in the world, but also the best for the world,” Steve Ardagh, Eagle Protect Founder and CEO said of the company’s direction.
“Eagle’s supply chain is fully transparent, mitigating the real threat of glove fraud and the food safety risks of our products. Our products are ethically sourced from responsibly run factories around the world which we visit regularly, and we also have a sustainability focus to help our customers reduce waste because of our better quality products.”
Eagle has joined forces with international food safety expert Barry Michaels, furthering research investment into the science of disposable gloves and their effect on cross-contamination and food safety.
“Protecting our customers, and their customers, by reducing the number of food-related events each year through the supply of quality gloves is our goal,” said Ardagh.
“We have a strong and growing New Zealand business. For further expansion we knew the only real option was to look at international markets. Australia is often the obvious choice, but for us the challenge associated with business in the greatest consumer nation in the world was the attraction!” Ardagh added.
Knowledge and experience
The US is estimated to use around 100 billion disposable gloves per year with a sizable amount of this in food manufacturing, processing and service.
“Our background, coming from a net food exporting country like New Zealand, gives us enormous knowledge and skill in keeping food systems safe,” Ardagh explained. “The US food sector is very price conscious, but the local suppliers of our product range, in our view, do not offer the unique level of knowledge and experience that Eagle does.
“We have found our unique offering of being a food safety company using disposable gloves and clothing as a tool for greater efficiency to reduce consumption and waste, and to improve food safety programmes, has resonated well with the US food sector.
“We are currently in trials or have been asked to bid with several large big-box food service companies and, like in New Zealand, supply some well known meat industry businesses across the nation,” Ardagh continued.
There have been many obstacles along the path for Ardagh and Eagle Protect. Visas for New Zealanders wishing to do business in the US are complex and relocation is expensive.
“We relocated our family to California as we believe that to be successful we have to be here. It has been quite a culture shock because as much as we may think we are alike – we are quite different in many ways!” admitted Ardagh.
“The innovation we are bringing to what has been a standard offering for many years has been welcomed by the forward-thinking businesses in the US that see how integral these products are for safety and business efficiency.
“For example, we recently made the decision to discontinue selling vinyl gloves in the US for many reasons, the main one being they are a food safety risk. Gaining nationwide industry news coverage, Eagle Protect has received positive feedback from the large incumbents in the industry as well as large users.”
Advice for exporters
“My advice to New Zealand businesses wanting to gain a foothold in the U.S.? Relocate, and make a plan. Expect to throw that plan out and make another one,” said Ardagh with a smile.
“Then repeat! It will take twice as long as you think and cost twice as much, but we are happy with our decision and have found the whole journey very rewarding.”
Photo: Steve Ardagh reviewing face masks.