The Philippines owner of Griffin's is gearing up to expand the 150-year-old Kiwi biscuit brand into Southeast Asia.

Lance Gokongwei, director of Universal Robina Corporation, which bought Griffin's last year, was in Auckland last week to visit the company's Wiri factory.

The factory has undergone a $25 million expansion and will produce 390 million Nice 'n' Natural muesli bars a year for the New Zealand, Australian and Asian markets.

Based on the size of the export opportunities, Griffin's expected more than half of its business to come from overseas in the next 10 years, compared to a third today.


Gokongwei said Southeast Asian companies were interested in New Zealand's food manufacturing opportunities because it was cost-competitive and had a valuable reputation.

He said New Zealand was seen as "clean, green and authentic".

"I think these are very relevant traits in many countries outside New Zealand where you don't have the same green spaces, the same emphasis on health ... cleanliness. It is meaningful to many Asians," he said.

"You're seeing a lot of Asian, particularly Chinese and Southeast Asian investment, looking at many sectors ... not only on the food side."

Gokongwei said the growing middle class in Southeast Asia were looking for high-quality food.

"Nobody can recreate a Griffin's [product]. Nobody can recreate 150 years of history and heritage," he said.

Griffin's biscuits were being launched in Singapore and Hong Kong, and by April would be rolled out across Southeast Asia.

Gokongwei said biscuits were popular in Southeast Asia, but Griffin's Toffee Pops and other chocolate biscuits were different to other products in the market.

"We expect Cookie Bear and a lot of the Griffin's products to be popular. Pure chocolate [in Griffin's biscuits] is a really unique offering. [Consumers in Southeast Asia] will look forward to trying that."

Griffin's chief executive Alison Barrass said since Universal Robina Corporation bought the company she and other employees had learnt about the culture of the Philippines.

"We're delighted to have an owner that's interested in growth ... but also provides a platform in Southeast Asia," Barrass said.

"It's put us in a very competitive position in that market very quickly. I think we couldn't have been more fortunate in terms of the ownership model."