It's eight weeks in and Miraka's new chief executive Grant Watson says that so far, it's been a steep learning curve.
"Information overload," he jokes. "Lots to learn, lots to soak up. It's a big industry, that's for sure, lots of moving parts."
Happily though, dairy is not a new industry to Watson, who took up the Miraka role on February 3, replacing departing chief executive Richard Wyeth, who had been with the company for 11 years and who had taken it from being a plan with a greenfields building site to a respected player in the New Zealand dairy industry. Wyeth is now chief executive of Hokitika-based Westland Milk Products.
Watson, a former winner of the New Zealand Young Executive of the Year title, spent 10 years at Fonterra, the giant of the New Zealand dairy industry. In contrast, Miraka occupies about 1 per cent of it.
But Watson says moving to Miraka gives him the opportunity to be involved with a business that does everything from on farm through to taking products to market - "from gate to plate".
He says one of the very clear mandates is to build on the momentum that Wyeth and the leadership team have created: growing the business, attracting the best staff, the best farmers and creating more value back to farmer suppliers.
Watson comes from "an unorthodox background" as a chief executive. He bypassed the university and MBA route, instead working his way up through McDonald's starting as a teenager at Mt Albert Grammar working part-time to earn money for flying lessons.
When he left school, he stayed at McDonald's full time, realised "I quite liked business", and progressed through the company's management scheme over the next 18 years, eventually becoming chief operating officer.
"It was the best apprenticeship in business you can ask for. It's a tough business but a very well-run well-organised business and I was very thankful for the time I had there."
At Fonterra, Watson first worked on its Anchor milk business in New Zealand then ran TipTop for three years and then became head of Fonterra's global food service business.
The food service business's top-line sales doubled under Watson's watch and he stayed in the role for five years. Then the Miraka role came up.
"I had a really healthy respect for Miraka from the outside looking in. I didn't know the detail but I had the sense that it's highly sustainable, arguably one of the most sustainable dairy businesses in the world and the other thing is the culture of the business. We would often hear really positive things about the team and the broader culture.
"This is in relative terms a smaller business, but right across the value chain; and that makes it a really appealing part of the role."
Miraka has 70 farmer suppliers and its plant can process 300 million litres of milk per annum. Watson says at the present time Miraka isn't looking to recruit more farmers or build new factory lines but to add value to its existing production of milk powder and UHT milk.
"In the short to medium term, it's about optimising what we've got.
"We haven't decided exactly what the value-add will be, but for us it's very clear: what's the consumer demand at one end of the spectrum and what's our capability like at the other and making sure that both look really compelling."
Miraka's ownership structure is shared between Māori trusts and incorporations and Vinamilk, a milk manufacturer and dairy products enterprise in Vietnam.
Watson says that Māori cultural influence sets Miraka apart. His first day at work began with a pōwhiri, and for the first time Watson had to learn his pepeha so that he could introduce himself on the marae.
"The culture is unique. The warmth and the passion, that manaakitanga that just came through, that's one standout for me. The second standout for me is the strategic horizons go out generations. When you're setting strategy you go out three to five years but we're thinking, 'how do we protect and nurture and leave a legacy that goes out generations?'. The kaitiakitanga is really unique.
"The third standout is very much grounded in the Māori culture and it's starting to come through. We have the Te Ara Miraka on-farm programme and it's just the way the Maori culture thinks about protecting land, protecting animals, protecting people and we're seeing the balance of the industry call for more of that."
Watson says in the sustainability space, Miraka is leading the way. Its Te Ara Miraka programme pays up to an extra 20 cents per kilo of milk solids to farmers who have gained accreditation. Its small size is also an advantage.
"We have 70 farmers and we know them all. I think we're definitely helping to set the standards and demonstrating excellence in that regard."
Watson has come into Miraka at a good time - this is the third year in a row where the farm gate milk price has been above $7. But that also brings challenges.
"What it means for us is the cost of goods goes up so we need to sell more value-added product to ensure that we're delivering effective returns to the shareholders.
"It's finding that balance between 100 year strategic horizons and delivering profits day-to-day."
Being in Taupō is also something the previously Auckland-based Watson's enjoying.
"I love it, absolutely love it. You look at the beauty down here. I enjoy a bit of road biking and mountain biking and I like skiing and I enjoy the seasons as well so it's a beautiful place."