Synlait was founded to ensure that global consumers were able to access some of the best that New Zealand dairying had to offer.
It began with a vision of partnering globally with people as passionate about business excellence, integrity, and quality of product, as we are about our farmers, the quality of the milk they produce, and having some of the world’s best milk processing and food safety systems.
That’s where the name Synlait comes from – Synergy and Milk. We get great people working together to provide families living in the modern world with food to support a healthy lifestyle.
From the outset it was clear that Canterbury was one of the best places in the world for pastoral dairy farming, and the world’s most modern dairy farmers would soon call it home. Leading by example, our first commercial project was the purchase and development of ‘Robindale’ farm. This quickly grew to a 3,000 cow dairy farm, one of the largest and most innovative farms in New Zealand. It remains Synlait’s largest supplying farm to this day. Over the next five years we continued to develop dairy farms, with a view to establishing a milk supply base from which to start an innovative processing business.
By 2005 Synlait Limited owned eight farms and had the cornerstone block of milk supply it had been striving for. Its focus shifted to building a customer base for its dairy ingredients with partners that had the leading brand position in each market.
With clear market support, and with our own farms and others keen for a new way of partnering with customers, we made the decision to establish our own manufacturing site.
A world-class team with a wealth of dairy industry and global business experience was brought together. The vision of providing milk nutrition to a modern world inspired some of New Zealand’s most respected industry executives and bright rising stars to join the company. Construction of the plant begun on seven hectares of Dunsandel Dairies, one of Synlait Ltd.’s larger farms. Synlait Limited’s focus became twofold – Synlait Farms would concentrate on the established and successful dairy farms, while Synlait Milk’s attention would be on launching the new manufacturing capability.
The first milk was processed on the 8 August 2008 in our brand new manufacturing plant. After seven years of hard work, our vision had become a reality. Further success in contracting milk from third party suppliers meant an extension of the plant was viable, and enabled the manufacture of Skim Milk Powder at 1.6 million litres of raw milk per day.
By now the first manufacturing plant was operating at capacity, and a second special milks spray dryer had been built. This gave us the capability to produce 1 – 2000 MT/per annum of formulated milk products, premium quality colostrum powders, hyper immune powder and other specialised high value dairy products. The ability to collaborate with a range of new partners and accelerate the development of new, innovative products was invaluable.
Synlait had established a wide customer base and considerable capability in spray drying and milk powder technology. Many of our early customers were using Synlait ingredients for Infant Formula manufacture, attracted by the quality of our milk supply, modern plant, and world-class food safety systems. This helped us develop a clear strategy of moving beyond ingredients to become a significant global supplier of infant nutritional products. Bright Dairy of China became a significant partner and shareholder in 2010, and construction began on the largest and most sophisticated purpose built infant formula production facility in the Southern Hemisphere, underpinned by the addition of Dryer Two. We also began to develop our best practice farm certification programme Lead With Pride™.
On 15 September Synlait processed its first milk through its new state-of-the-art infant formula facility. Synlait now had the capability to create health and nutritional products to unique customer specifications. The expansion of Synlait has been led by passionate and knowledgeable Directors who continue to move the company forward. We remain committed to our original vision of ensuring that global consumers have access to the very best that New Zealand dairying has to offer.
In 2012 a series of significant milestones were achieved in what was our fourth year of production. It was a year of sustained growth with the most important result being the achievement of a $6.3 million profit after tax. A strategic refresh saw us place even more emphasis on our vision to become the supplier of choice to some of the world’s best milk-based health and nutrition companies. We became clearly focused on our value added milk powder and nutritional powder business, and building a reputation for quality and technical excellence. In April 2012 we announced an agreement with The a2 Milk Company to supply and process their a2 Platinum® infant formula. In September we were awarded the Champion Global Operator (large to medium enterprise) at the 2012 Champion Canterbury Business Awards, and also the Agri-Business Award in the Sensational Selwyn Awards.
In April we launched Lead With Pride™, our on farm programme encouraging best practice dairy farming. In June we launched The a2 Milk Company’s a2 Platinum® infant formula. On 23 July 2013 we listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange. As part of this we raised $68.9 million in new capital to help fund a range of growth initiatives over the following three years. This included the build of dryer three, our lactoferrin facility, the quality testing laboratory, a warehouse extension, the new administration building, and the development of our blending and consumer packaging facility. We also picked up a number of awards in 2013 – the New Zealand China Trade Association (NZCTA) Supreme Award and the DLA Phillips Fox Award for successful investment with China, and the Champion Global Operator (large to medium enterprise) at the 2013 Champion Canterbury Business Awards. In February of 2013 the farm management portion of the company, Synlait Farms, split off from Synlait Milk. It would later would change its name to Purata Farming Ltd, and is now part of the Theland Purata Farm Group.
In 2014 we had a number of large projects come to completion. The warehouse expansion, the blending and consumer packaging facility, and the lactoferrin facility were all completed. In September we also completed the tanker yard and associated maintenance workshop for the fleet of milk tankers that are provided to Synlait under contract with Hilton Haulage. With our blending and consumer packaging facility complete, we gained registration with the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China (CNCA) as a dairy and infant formula manufacturer in May. In 2014 we also entered into an agreement with New Hope Nutritionals to manufacture and package their infant formula Akara for consumers in China. At the 2014 Champion Canterbury Business Awards we were the Overall Supreme Winner and the Champion Global Operator for medium / large enterprises.
In June 2015 we announced our partnership with Munchkin Inc. to develop their Grass Fed™ infant formula range. In September we opened our new administration building and commissioned dryer three, and in October we completed our laboratory. We also invested in Primary Collaboration of New Zealand (PCNZ); a Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise (WFOE) with a shared office based in Shanghai. It was established with the support of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE).
In 2016 we brought on board 28 new milk suppliers to ensure our milk processing capability, following the completion of our third dryer, was fully utilised. That meant that for the first time we had more than 200 milk suppliers. In August the Synlait shuttle started running between Rolleston and Synlait Dunsandel to provide employees with a free way to get to and from work, reducing traffic on the roads and ensuring a safe commute. Following on from listing on the New Zealand Exchange (NZX) in July 2013, we completed a rights issue in October 2016 raising $97.6m, and we dual listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) in November 2016. Throughout 2016 our Senior Leadership Team evolved to meet the changing demands of the business. We created a business development team early in 2016, and made four significant appointments to the leadership team. These were Director of Sales and Business Development, Director of People, Culture and Performance, General Manager of Integrated Business Planning, and General Manager of Sales. We also developed some important systems and processes to enable us to operate as efficiently as possible in a fast growing organisation. Balanced Scorecards, the Integrated Business Planning framework and a revised performance management tool for staff (Perform and Grow) were all launched in 2016. Synlait was awarded Best Growth Strategy at 2016 Deloitte Top 200 Awards, and Neil Betteridge, Director Operations, was given a Prime Minister’s Business Scholarship to attend an international executive course.
We acquired the New Zealand Dairy Company in May 2017 and expect to commission a second state-of-the-art blending and consumer packaging facility there by the end of November. We also announced a new partnership with Massey University and FoodPILOT to establish a research and development centre in Palmerston North. Both of these milestones help diversify the capacity and capability we have at our Dunsandel site. In April we received a Generally Recognised as Safe (GRAS) notice for our lactoferrin, which means we can export the nutraceutical product to the United States, and also use it in our infant formulas. A fourth blending and consumer packaging shift was started at Synlait Dunsandel in April, and our new wetmix kitchen is expected to be completed in November. We successfully registered The a2 Milk Company’s infant formula with the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) in September 2017. We have strengthened our relationships with our infant formula customers, including a new supply agreement with New Hope Nutritionals and the Munchkin Grass Fed™ U.S. FDA application has also been lodged. Our General Manager of Supply Chain, Rob Stowell received a Prime Minister’s Business Scholarship to attend an international executive course.