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It may seem counter-intuitive that a wildly competing world dairy industry got together in Auckland to collaborate, but without such round-table discussions, there would be no foundation on which to build innovative products and services in the sector and many would be almost impossible to verify.

The whole International Dairy Federation/World Dairy Summit event recently held in Auckland is pre-competitive or non-competitive says the New Zealand president of the IDF, Fonterra’s chief technology officer, Jeremy Hill. While there might be a lot of debate, the IDF is really about collaboration, not controversy he says.

‘The industry comes together where we need to form a consensus,’ he says. This might be on developing standard methods to analyse a component, or develop a new food standard. That might be that a composition of a particular dairy food, or food product containing a dairy a specific quantity of a dairy component.

‘Then individual countries or companies can use their own proprietary techniques, their own intellectual property to occupy that space with their own products or services.’

Hill says such technically related matters occupy the full value chain from feed to fork, and even beyond that as claims relating to nutritional and health aspects of dairy food.

‘The IDF literally has dozens of projects along the entire chain,’ he says. In order to compare products from different companies and countries, aspects such as animal health standards, food standards, carbon footprint analysis or life cycle analysis need to have a common base or else they would be meaningless. For example, stating the protein levels of a dairy product based on different methods of measuring that protein, would be relatively worthless.

‘If we have a common understanding and collaboration on the ultimate nutritional values in dairy food, then we can compete with different products and services in the value chain,’ Hill says