Synlait opens new research facility

by Kent Caddick

Selwyn-based dairy company Synlait has opened a new research and development centre in the North Island.

The opening of Synlait’s new centre at Massey’s Manawatu campus in Palmerston North, comes on the heels of the company’s announcement of a new $125 million facility to be built at its Canterbury base at Dunsandel.

Managing director and CEO, John Penno, says the research centre will play an important role in developing innovative export-oriented cream opportunities to leverage Synlait’s upcoming advanced liquid dairy packaging facility, to be built at Synlait Dunsandel. 

“We are serious about growing and applying our research and development expertise to maintain a competitive edge.

“While Synlait Palmerston North is focussed on dairy liquids, we have teams elsewhere working on nutritional powders, packaging and many other areas.”

Penno said Synlait plans to double its investment over the next two years, having committed around $7 million to research and category development in the current financial year.

“We’ve established an R&D centre in Palmerston North, and will be investing around $2 million on additional equipment for the FoodPilot facility, which can be used by others,” Penno said.

The vice chancellor of Massey University, Professor Jan Thomas, who opened the new research centre said the facility highlighted the important new relationship between Synlait and the university.

“The establishment of Synlait’s new research and development centre is an excellent example of industry and the university collaborating closely to achieve real, tangible outcomes,” Professor Thomas said.

“Strategic partnerships like these are vital if we are to start and grow new industries, create new jobs, and to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

Synlait Palmerston North is a partnership with Massey University and FoodPilot, one of the New Zealand Food Innovation Network’s four hubs.

The Palmerston North team will primarily concentrate on innovative dairy liquid product development, as well as supporting processes and technology.

Synlait currently has around 35 staff members working within the Research and Development Team, but the company said this would grow as Synlait Palmerston North ramp-up its operations.

Synlait is also looking to build a $260 million infant formula manufacturing plant in Pokeno, North Waikato, but the purchase of land for the plant will have to be approved by the Overseas Investment Office (OIO).