Dietary supplements derived from "undervalued and untapped" New Zealand and Australian ingredients are at the heart of an Auckland company's thriving export business to China and south-east Asia.
Products from sources as diverse as bees, deer placenta, green lipped mussels and other marine species are among those used to manufacture a wide range of health supplements for export by GMP Pharmaceuticals.
The company, which has just been named as the South and East region supreme winner in the Westpac Auckland Business Awards, has built its business on "bringing unique New Zealand and Australian health food ingredients to the world," says GMP's head of sales and marketing Evan Rees.
"Many of these are of low value in the west - in New Zealand deer are even considered a pest by some - but in China and Asia they are in high demand and accepted as high-end," he says.
"Transforming these ingredients typifies our business model which is to identify, source and turn what are considered low value, untapped and otherwise waste ingredients into high-value products suitable for export."
The Westpac awards are delivered by the Auckland Business Chamber in partnership with Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) to celebrate innovation and strategic thinking. Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett says GMP Pharmaceuticals is yet another example of a business having the courage to apply its vision on a global scale and succeeding.
GMP, which exports up to 85 per cent of its total output, was originally set up in 1994 in Sydney by Chinese expatriates, husband and wife team of Karl and Sonia Ye to manufacture health supplements. In 2001 with demand growing internationally for their products, GMP opened its first New Zealand plant at East Tamaki. A second, a 45,000sqm Health Food Park was opened in 2016.
Starting with just five employees, the company's early business was in exporting bee product supplements to Japan and South Korea. Today it employs about 1000 (300 of whom are based in Auckland) and has become the largest pharmaceuticals and health supplements manufacturer in New Zealand and Australia.
As well as China it exports to Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and the United States.
Registered by the New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority (Medsafe NZ) and recognised by the equivalent organisation in Australia, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), GMP also manufacturers formulated milk powders, special medical foods and probiotics.
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They come in a wide range of dosage forms including softgel, vegetable and hardshell capsules, tablets, liquids and powders.
Rees says the company decided to set up in New Zealand not only because at the time there were no other big players in the market but also because "New Zealand was considered the home of natural.
"Our vision was to bring unique Australian and New Zealand health food ingredients to the world by leading in quality and innovation – and in the process New Zealand has developed a very good reputation in China and Asia for its complementary health products."
Rees says the company's success in China has been helped by the establishment of a "New Zealand Window" Chinese team which has been trained to fully understand China's industry regulations, keep tabs on policy changes and to work closely with Chinese customers and the relevant government departments.
"This has helped GMP successfully navigate through the many regulatory changes which have adversely affected many of our competitors," Rees says.
The company also has offices in Beijing, Tianjian, Ningbo and Hong Kong to manage customs and customer issues, warehousing and distribution.
Rees says he believes the company's success is due in large part to its philosophy of working hard for the success of its customers: "This not only includes hard-work, but a deep understanding of our customers, strong partnerships, uncompromising high standards and expectations and providing seamless, transparent and ready solutions for our partners."
He says the company's employees also play an important part. "We allow them a huge amount of empowerment and make sure they have got a voice; every idea is taken on board, it doesn't matter who makes it or where it comes from.
"We also share profits with the staff through an annual bonus paid to everyone," he says. "This is in recognition of the key role they play in our success."