Tatua Dairy Company - 100 Years On

September 2014

Tatua looks back at 100 years of dairying and adding value to its milk products

Tatua Co-operative Dairy Company is celebrating its centenary in 2014, publishing a history book and having a number of events for farmer members, staff members and customers. It is the oldest dairy company in NZ that hasn’t been part of a merger or acquisition, having remained independent when the majority of the NZ processing industry combined to form Fonterra in 2001. Tatua has 109 supply farms within 12km of the plant. It has a reputation for paying more than other co-operatives for milk supply because of its higher value dairy products. The co-operative has six elected farmer directors and two appointed directors.

Bruce Wilton, a director of Tatua for the past 10 years, is the fourth generation dairy farmer on 100ha located in Wilton Rd, Morrinsville, only a few kilometers from the Tatua plant. His great-grandfather Henry was a foundation shareholder of Tatua in 1914, followed by grandfather Jack and father Richard. Bruce and Margaret have three children.

The farm expanded in 2006 with the acquisition of a neighboring 40ha and a cousin nearby also farms an original Tatua supply farm. Bruce was born and raised on the farm and returned to operate on his own account in 1997. The farm of 300 Friesian and Friesian-cross cows produced 1500kg/ha in the 2013-14 season, which was a record production despite a drought. Bruce said membership of the Tatua Co-operative has been very beneficial for his family when compared with the alternatives for milk supply and share ownership. He hopes the family will continue to supply Tatua during the next century and continue its involvement in governance.

Tatua Co-operative has operated on the same site east of Morrinsville for 100 years. The first plant was a cheese plant when the co-op was formed in 1914 with 10 supply-farm members. Within a year, the membership had grown to 29 and four years later the first opportunity to remain independent came when the membership voted to stay out of dairy company amalgamations to form New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company, which joined with Kiwi in 2001 to form Fonterra.

In the 1920’s the membership expanded to 88 and electricity supply was connected to the plant, now expanded to cope with the milk inflow coming on trucks rather than by horse and cart. In the 1940’s cheese production was expanded with milk from outside supply farms to cater for the needs of Britain, but in 1946 the last cheese was made at Tatua and a new boiler and three roller driers were installed to make milk powders.

Milk collection by tankers began in 1953. In the 1960’s a casein plant was added and a new milk powder spray drier installed. In the 1970’s the first whipped cream in an aerosol can was researched and produced at Tatua and it remains the only maker of aerosol cream in the southern hemisphere, a fact it displays by painting one of its 12m high silos on the roadside at the plant as a giant can of Tatua Dairy Whip.

In the late 1970’s Tatua developed UHT liquid cheese and formed its consumer products and foodservice businesses. In the 1990’s the first computerised factory and butter making plant was built and lactoferrin development and manufacture began. In 1993 a new spray drier was installed and was followed three years later by a whey protein concentrate plant. When in 2001 the NZ Dairy Board amalgamated with NZDG and Kiwi, the Tatua shareholders voted to remain independent.

In the mid 2000’s Tatua established a sales office in Tokyo and formed its flavour ingredients and bionutrients businesses, while installing an anhydrous milk fat plant. Most recently it has built a foods plant and hydrolysis plant.

Its manufacturing divisions include ingredients including caseinates and whey protein concentrate; food service products such as whipping and cooking cream, icecream, creme fraiche; consumer products; bionutrients for biopharmaceutical production, diagnostic media and cell culture media; special nutritionals including baby formula ingredients such as hydrolysates and lactoferrin; and flavour ingredients.

The new foods plant enabled the company to double production of specialty powders such as hydrolystates, flavour powders and bionutrients.

Farmers have voted for the biggest expansion in the company history, a $65 million specialised products drier to be operating from the beginning of the 2015-16 season.

The farms supply Tatua with about 13m kg milk solids, or 140m litres of milk annually and the company turnover is around $230m. In the two most recent annual reports Tatua said it has paid $7.50 and $7.40/kg respectively for milk but the anticipated 2013-14 result of around $8/kg has not been finalised or announced.

Director Bruce Wilton said Tatua would have a “good solid result” in its centenary year.