Thank you Tony (Tony Nowell – Chair of New Zealand Food Innovation Auckland).
Vice Chancellor Steve Maharey, my colleague Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Councillors Arthur Anae and Alf Filipaina, members of the Board of New Zealand Food Innovation Auckland, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
It’s great to be here today to celebrate the opening of this impressive centre.
The last six weeks have given New Zealand a huge opportunity to showcase our food and beverage industry. Over 90,000 visitors have visited our country and enjoyed the very best we have to offer – from our fish and chips to our fabulous meat to our fine wines.
Many visitors also took the opportunity last week to visit the New Zealand Food Innovation Showcase here in Auckland. This gave them a look at our world-leading food technology, the companies and the products.
And of course, most enjoyed the spectacle of our champion All Blacks beating the French on Sunday!
Today’s event is two-fold. We are celebrating the opening of this wonderful facility, and I am also launching an exciting project for our food and beverage industries.
I’ll tell you more about that shortly.
This centre, the FoodBowl is a first. It’s the only purpose-built, publicly available complex of its kind in the country.
The state-of-the-art centre will operate 24/7. It will enable food manufacturers to develop and trial products for commercialisation, and it will help address critical gaps in the product development pipeline.
It’s a fantastic facility and will provide a welcome boost to our food economy.
I want to acknowledge some who have played a key role in getting to where we are today:
Ray Winger, former Professor and Head of the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health who had the vision for this centre. Ray, I thank you for your persistence and your commitment to New Zealand’s food industry.
The Board of New Zealand Food Innovation Auckland Ltd, chaired by Tony Nowell and comprising Ross McCallum, Colin Mitten, Professor Richard Archer, Sir Barry Curtis and former member, Colin Wise. All of you have done a superb job of turning Ray’s vision into a reality.
This facility also represents a successful partnership between industry, Massey University, economic development agencies, and local and central government.
It’s something to be immensely proud of.
The FoodBowl is the Auckland component of the Government’s $22 million Food Innovation Network. The Network aims to encourage innovation in the food sector, with the ultimate goal of growing food exports.
We will soon see innovation centres in Canterbury, Palmerston North and Waikato, each with a different – but equally important – focus.
Together they will provide services specialising in all aspects of food manufacturing.
As a small country, we punch far above our weight when it comes to food production.
Our food and beverage sectors account for half of our exports and employ one in five people, directly or indirectly.
New Zealand is a trusted supplier to markets across the globe.
But those markets have changed and will continue to change.
We sit on the doorstep of the world’s fastest growing region.
Today, Asia accounts for 40% of our total food and beverage exports, while the UK takes only 5%. China is our single largest destination.
This booming demand from Asia offers us huge opportunities.
We must make the most of them.
It’s these opportunities that are the focus of an important project I’m announcing this afternoon - the Food and Beverage Information Project.
This new project provides us with the most comprehensive analysis of the New Zealand food and beverage industry ever undertaken.
It looks at how our food and beverage sectors stack up, and where the growth opportunities are. It highlights some fascinating trends – for example:
• New Zealand exports of infant formula have grown from US$27 million to a staggering $476 million in a decade.
• We all know New Zealand wines are hugely regarded internationally, and are sold all over the world. To give you an idea of the industry’s growth, in the time I’ve been an MP, exports have risen from $150 million to over $1 billion.
• But it should be noted that our spirits industry is also mapping out new territory on international markets – it’s now a US$58 million export earner, and growing.
• And, our success as a major dairy and meat exporter shouldn’t overlook our expertise in exporting avocados, honey, stonefruit and berries.
This information project gives us a platform to drive export growth and innovation. It will give the sectors the insight they need to make strategic decisions.
And it will further enhance New Zealand’s reputation as a producer of high quality food and beverages.
This is why the New Zealand Food Innovation Network and the FoodBowl are so important.
To meet increasing demand, we need food and beverage sectors that are smart, innovative, flexible, and above all world-class.
This new centre will certainly help achieve this. Congratulations, and thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. I now officially declare the FoodBowl open for business.