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The New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) has secured a new $8 million fibre supply contract with United States sock and apparel manufacturer SmartWool. The one-year deal means 600 tonnes of New Zealand fine and medium micron wool will be shipped to the United States for use in production of SmartWool’s performance and lifestyle socks and clothing.
NZM chief executive John Brakenridge said the deal with SmartWool continued an 18-year partnership worth $150 million to NZM’s growers.
“The SmartWool contract is testament that a new way of doing business can work in our commodity-based primary sector. When we first introduced the idea it was hugely disruptive, so it's satisfying to see that the model has longevity. This new contract reinforces that.
“There certainly seems to be heightened awareness of this model now in the primary sector.  It brings producers closer to end-users and that's important in making sure we supply a premium offering.  It means NZM growers get the best possible return.”
SmartWool’s parent company, VF Corporation, counts The North Face, Timberland and Vans among its global brands. Colorado-based SmartWool started as a ski sock brand in 1994 and has since diversified into performance and lifestyle apparel, selling products in 40 countries.
SmartWool President Mark Satkiewicz said the company’s focus on new product innovation had required more complex fibre micron and volume analysis in advance of the contract.
“We’re excited about this innovation and opening new supply opportunities for New Zealand growers. We value our loyal grower partners in New Zealand that understand and produce what we need here in the market.”
In addition, SmartWool’s customers were increasingly interested in the company’s “brand story” – particularly ZQ accredited fibre from NZM growers.
“Consumers, especially younger ones, are taking a much stronger interest in the origin and integrity of products.  New Zealand farming has one of the strongest brand stories available. “It’s one we can, and absolutely should, tell,” said Satkiewicz.
Glenn Baker

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


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