A goat milk infant formula industry is being mooted for Hawke's Bay with claims it could generate $1.5 billion for the region over the next 10 years - averaging about as much per year as the dairy cattle industry did at its payout peaks over the past two years.
The potential is contained in an economic impact report prepared for Business Hawke's Bay which food and beverage programme manager Catherine Rusby says has been working "behind the scenes" for six months investigating the opportunity.
It is now planning a one-day conference in Napier on July 2, putting the factors before those who may be interested in becoming involved, from farming goats to production.
"There is a true opportunity for Hawke's Bay to become the place in New Zealand for a non-bovine infant formula industry from start to finish," Ms Rusby said.
"We're considering a supply chain that produces a fully value-added product all created in Hawke's Bay, from breeding and raising the goats or sheep, milking them, to processing the milk into powder, packaging and exporting the finished product through Napier Port." "Hawke's Bay can have an end-to-end industry right here," she said.
Ms Rusby said goat milk was rich in protein, calcium and vitamins and was easier to digest than cow's milk, making it an alternative milk source for infants suffering from reflux, and "in many cases" for people allergic to cow milk.
There was growing interest from the farming community for options outside sheep and beef farming.
She said research suggested that by 2024 the total value-added contribution could equate to 9 per cent of the total agricultural sector GDP of the region, and 30 per cent of the GDP for the region's pastoral farming.
The July 2 symposium will detail market activities, including a global overview of the US$50 billion ($67 billion) infant formula industry, including goat and sheep dairy formula.
Hamilton-based Dairy Goat Co-operative developed the world's first goat milk-based nutritional products for infants in 1988, and exceeded $150 million turnover for the first time in 2014.