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Fonterra Puts Consumer Brands On The Block - Is This A Move Toward Sustainability and Relevance?

New Zealand's Fonterra Co-operative Group has announced a significant strategic shift aimed at reinforcing its position as a leading global provider of high-value dairy ingredients, but will it be enough to maintain relevance?

The Kiwi dairy co-op is exploring full or partial divestment of its global consumer business, including its integrated businesses in Oceania and Sri Lanka. Brands like Anchor, Mainland, Kāpiti, Anlene, Anmum, Fernleaf, Western Star, Perfect Italiano and others are being pu ton the block.

Source: Various Fonterra brands

Fonterra's decision to divest its consumer brands and refocus on its core business of high-value, innovative dairy ingredients marks a significant strategic shift. Here’s our assessment of this move, especially in relation to changing technology and its impact on animal-based industrial protein farming. From its press release this morning we have gleaned the following.

By concentrating on B2B dairy nutrition, Fonterra would leverage its expertise in producing high-quality dairy ingredients. This focus would allow Fonterra to deepen partnerships with strategic ingredients customers and invest more in innovation, which is crucial for staying competitive in a rapidly evolving market.

The decision to divest consumer brands like Anchor and Mainland allows Fonterra to streamline its operations and focus on areas where it has a competitive edge. While these brands are well-established, their growth potential might be better realised under new ownership with specialised expertise in consumer markets. (Read global multinationals!)

The food industry is experiencing a technological revolution, particularly in alternative proteins. Innovations in plant-based proteins, lab-grown meat, and precision fermentation are reshaping consumer preferences and industry dynamics. These technologies offer sustainable, scalable alternatives to traditional animal-based proteins, addressing concerns about environmental impact, animal welfare, and food security.

Fonterra's noted commitment to sustainability is a positive sign, but the broader industry shift towards sustainable food proteins could pose challenges. As consumers increasingly demand environmentally friendly products, Fonterra will need to demonstrate its dairy production methods can meet these expectations. Investing in technologies reducing the carbon footprint and improving efficiency of dairy farming will be essential.

Animal-based protein farming is under scrutiny for its environmental impact, including greenhouse gas emissions, land use, and water consumption. Fonterra’s strategic move must address these concerns to remain relevant. By focusing on sustainability, Fonterra can position itself as a responsible player in the industry.

Dairy products and cows

Source: Public Domain

The rise of alternative proteins is creating a more competitive landscape. Companies specialising in plant-based and lab-grown proteins are rapidly gaining market share. Fonterra’s focus on dairy ingredients must be complemented by innovations aligning with these market trends, potentially exploring hybrid products that combine dairy with plant-based ingredient?

In our assessment we raise the following questions:

  1. Adaptation to Alternative Proteins: How will Fonterra adapt to the increasing popularity of alternative proteins? Will it further consider investing in or collaborating with companies in this space to diversify its product offerings?

  2. Sustainability Metrics: How will Fonterra measure and improve its sustainability efforts to align with global environmental goals? What specific technologies or practices will it implement to reduce its environmental footprint? How can Fonterra become 'Earth Friendly'?

  3. Consumer Demand: With consumer preferences shifting towards sustainable and ethical products, how will Fonterra ensure its B2B offerings meet these new demands? Can it leverage its expertise to develop innovative dairy ingredients catering to these trends?

  4. Long-term Strategy: How will this strategic shift impact Fonterra’s long-term financial targets and growth prospects? What are the potential risks and rewards of focusing solely on Ingredients and Foodservice channels?

Fonterra's move to divest its consumer brands and concentrate on high-value dairy ingredients is without doubt a forward-thinking strategy aligning with its strengths. However, the company must navigate the challenges posed by changing technology and the growing demand for sustainable food options.

By addressing these issues head-on and embracing innovation, Fonterra might just secure its relevancy and place in the future of global protein production...or not ?

For more information and Fonterra's full release CLICK HERE


  • In FY23, Fonterra’s Ingredients business represented ~80% of the Co-op’s New Zealand milk solids sold and returned $17.4 billion in revenue by selling a range of products, from high quality powders to premium proteins through GDT, resellers, and direct to strategic customers. It has a global sales footprint and customer base, with growing demand in developed economies such as North America.

  • In FY23, Fonterra’s Foodservice business represented ~13% of the Co-op’s New Zealand milk solids sold and returned $3.9 billion in revenue by selling products such as UHT cream, cream cheese and mozzarella to customers including restaurants, bakeries and hospitality businesses. It has a strong position in Greater China with further growth potential in other markets seeing economic growth, such as in Southeast Asia.

  • In FY23, Fonterra’s Consumer business represented ~7% of the Co-op’s New Zealand milk solids sold and returned $3.3 billion in revenue. It sells everyday dairy products such as fresh milk, cheese and butter enjoyed in homes around the world. It has a global footprint with brands most prominent in New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka, China and Southeast Asia.  



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