Invercargill-based infant nutrition exporter Blue River Dairy expects to double sales next year, thanks to a new canning line.

The pioneering sheep milk company, which evolved into an export-focused infant nutrition business, was sold to Chinese interests in 2015.

In a statement, general manager Robert Boekhout said the company had gone from producing and exporting 400,000 cans of infant formula in 2016, to 2.5 million cans in 2018 and was on course to reach its 2018 target of 7.5 million cans.

With the addition of the new canning line, the company was targeting production of 15 million cans in 2019.

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To achieve that, permanent staff numbers had doubled over the past 12 months, from about 50 to about 105. At least 20 more staff would be required when the new line opened.

In 2017, Blue River Dairy was confirmed as one of New Zealand's fastest-growing businesses, coming in 10th on the Deloitte Fast 50 index.

The company had recognised an opportunity for significant growth by expanding into producing cow and goat milk nutritional formulas.

''We believe we are the only infant nutrition plant in the world manufacturing three species products.

''We are very good at developing the market and delivering high quality, niche products into that market,'' Mr Boekhout said.

Its major challenges were recruiting enough staff to allow it to continue to grow at such a rapid rate, he said.

The company was founded by Southland businessman Keith Neylon in 2003.