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New Zealand’s processed food sector is well placed to support the economic and social recovery from the global Covid-19 crisis, according to the head of food science and innovation hub, FoodHQ.

FoodHQ CEO, Dr Abby Thompson (pictured) says under Level 4 there has been unprecedented examples of collaboration and innovation in the New Zealand food industry, in order to overcome the obstacles of lockdown at home and abroad.

“The level of activity and enthusiasm that companies, scientists and entrepreneurs have applied to the problem of processing and supplying food has been outstanding.”

Dr Thompson says she has been in touch with numerous companies which are continuing to process and export under lockdown. The lockdown also appears to be driving consumer demand for different types of food products and innovations as well as heightening consumer awareness of a wider range of New Zealand grown and processed products.

“There is a walnut growers cooperative for example that has seen 500% online sales growth as kiwis eat local, rather than imported product. And I know of several ready to eat meal and frozen food companies who have experienced considerable growth in the lockdown. For example, supermarket category managers are commenting on an increase in sales of frozen quick cook treats that appeal to children.”

The changes have required a rapid response at the food science end of the sector according to Dr Thompson.  A group set up by the NZ Institute of Food Science and Technology, the Foodie Volunteer Army, is providing a critical forum for food scientists and technologists to collaborate in the lockdown environment.

“The Foodie Volunteer army is enabling food businesses to get support and answers to all sorts of questions from supply chain issues and ingredient substitution to personnel management with 2m social distancing. It’s a fantastic collaboration.”

Dr Thompson believes the crisis response demonstrates the ability and determination of NZ food processors to grow the sector.

Food and beverage is New Zealand’s major export industry accounting for 46% of total goods and services exported, $71bn of revenue in 2019 and 83,800 post farm gate jobs.

A 2019 Coriolis report* identified the potential for the NZ processed food sector to support an additional 10,000 jobs, if more of NZ’s primary produce was further developed and processed into added value products.


* Coriolis report: Growth Opportunities for Food and Beverage Processing in NZ (2019)

( processing-employment-in-new-zealand)



Glenn Baker

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


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