Singaporean-owned company Addiction Foods, which has been making and exporting premium grain-free pet food from Bay of Plenty for eight years, has recently completed a multi-million dollar upgrade of its Te Puke plant and switched the majority of its global production to New Zealand. The change also means that for the first time the Addiction Foods line will be available to New Zealand consumers.
"We increased our capacity by over 30 times with our factory upgrade and are now New Zealand's largest dry pet food plant," said co-founder and CEO Jerel Kwek.
"With such strict regulations over manufacturing and a clean environment, New Zealand is the best place in the world to produce healthy, high quality pet food.
"We're thrilled to increase our production here."
Formerly, New Zealand provided about 20 per cent of Addiction Food's global production and all of it was exported, with the rest being made mostly in Australia and the United States.
However, with the plant upgrade, the majority of production will shift to New Zealand. Mr Kwek said currently the majority of dry pet food in New Zealand was imported from overseas.
"We've identified a big gap in the market for good quality New Zealand-made dry pet food, both here and internationally."
Mr Kwek was born and educated in Singapore, then went to Wharton Business School in the US, before dropping out to start his first company.
"I've always been entrepreneurial," said Mr Kwek. "I love animals, and I love food and wanted to develop a better quality pet food. All of the meat in New Zealand is free range or wild caught, which contrasts greatly with the meat found in the US."
Addiction Foods, which was a pioneer in the use of low-temperature processing to retain valuable nutrients, was co-founded in 2002 by Mr Kwek.
The company uses a selection of premium proteins and game meats, including New Zealand possum, to produce a range of dry and raw dehydrated natural foods designed to prevent allergies and promote long-term health in cats and dogs. The possum meat is harvested through a conservation-based programmed supported by the New Zealand government.
"Possum meat contains higher levels of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids than other red meats and these fatty acids are essential to pet health," he said.
However, in terms of the total pet food range, possum meat was these days more of a niche product, said Mr Kwek, along with more mainstream pet foods based around lamb, salmon, pork and venison.
The company chose Tauranga as a base in 2007 because of the access to the port, and set up in Te Puke because it had been able to take over the old Fonterra plant there and reconfigure it to Addiction Foods' production requirements.
Currently, 50-60 per cent of Addiction Food's product goes to the US, and Japan is the second-biggest market. The company also sells across Asia and in Canada. There are 15 people employed by Addiction Foods in Te Puke out of a total global workforce of 40-45.
Auckland-based New Zealand Natural Pet Food will handle distribution of the Addiction Foods products throughout New Zealand both online and direct. It expects to go live with a new website featuring Addiction Foods products next month (www.nznaturalpetfood.co.nz).
"We've been distributing it through a few of our outlets as a trial and actually the first place it was sold was in Tauranga," said Jerina Corban-Banks, NZ Natural Pet Food customer service manager. "We wanted to see what the reaction was like, and it was incredibly responsive and very positive."
She said Addiction Foods' key point of difference was that it produced a New Zealand-made grain-free pet food.