The New Zealand Food and Grocery Council (FGC) today strongly backed Minister Tariana Turia’s call for a full investigation by regulators into the status of Heitiki Infant Formula and the credentials of the company Kiaora New Zealand International Limited.
“We endorse the Minister’s concern, and thank her for raising this issue at the highest level, said Katherine Rich, CEO of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council.
“FGC has 6 members involved in the production and marketing of infant formula and baby foods. They all rigidly adhere to New Zealand food laws and quality standards.
“New Zealand’s brand is very valuable. Our country an excellent reputation for being a source of safe, high quality food.
"Infant formula is a very important export. As recently highlighted by Minister of Economic Development, Gerry Brownlee, ramping up the production of quality infant formula by New Zealand companies is a major positive growth opportunity for our members and the economy.
“But authorities certainly need to keep a close eye on start-up infant formula companies, particularly those marketing into China, which might attempt to trade on New Zealand’s positive image.
“It’s a constant battle for FGC members producing infant formula to protect their brands and reputation in the Chinese market.
“Just recently there have been cases of Chinese firms attempting to create brands and copy products to align themselves with New Zealand’s good reputation. Some companies have even deliberately copied New Zealand branded infant formula products, hijacked trade names and replicated websites.
“The Food and Grocery Council will be making a complaint to the Commerce Commission and MAF (formerly the New Zealand Food Safety Authority) to endorse and support the Hon Tariana Turia’s call.
“We will be highlighting some of the claims being made by Kiaora New Zealand International Limited. For example, the company says it is “dedicated to sourcing and providing Kiwi mums with the best and healthiest infant formula available”, that “many NZ parents are using Kiaora infant formula” and that their products “have become the new standard in New Zealand”.
“This is a complete surprise to our members. It’s hard to fathom how Heitiki is the “new standard” when scan data shows that New Zealand and Australian supermarkets do not sell the product at all.
“The prices on the site, with some tins up to $NZ169.00 would certainly be judged exorbitant by Kiwi mums. FGC members’ products range from $NZ18-$25 a tin in New Zealand supermarkets.
Kiaora also says the company invests “heavily in our own research and development, using our own connections with several universities and research organisations” and despite not answering its listed phone number when FGC called says, it “welcomes” calls and consumer feedback.
“We hope when the authorities call that the firm can demonstrate that its claims are more than marketing waffle designed to convince Chinese mothers worried about food quality that they are buying a New Zealand quality product, Mrs Rich said.